“There are no objective obstacles to prevent the IAEA mission from reaching the Zaporizhzhia NPP,” Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday in his daily address, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency by its initials.
“Russia must immediately and unconditionally allow IAEA representatives to the plant,” he said. However, he also added, “The one who organized nuclear blackmail certainly cannot be the ‘transporter’ of any such missions.”
“Russia must immediately and unconditionally allow IAEA representatives to the plant and also immediately and unconditionally withdraw its troops from the territory of the plant. The world has the power to ensure this,” Zelenskyy said. “If it does not ensure this, we can simply throw the entire body of international documents on nuclear and radiation safety into the trash. Russia is destroying this international order.”
Earlier in the day, Zelenskyy met in the western Ukraine city of Lviv with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“I held very substantive negotiations on many topics today with President of Turkey Erdogan. I am grateful to him for his unwavering support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our state. We discussed defense, economic and energy cooperation,” Zelenskyy said. “I am grateful to Turkiye for its willingness to take under patronage the reconstruction of Kharkiv and the Kharkiv region. This is a mission for a truly powerful country. Today, the first step was taken -- an agreement on infrastructure was signed.”
Earlier in the day, Guterres called for the Zaporizhzhia power plant site to be “demilitarized,” with the withdrawal of military equipment and personnel.
“Common sense must prevail to avoid any actions that might endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the nuclear plant,” Guterres said. “The facility must not be used as part of any military operation. Instead, agreement is urgently needed to reestablish Zaporizhzhia as purely civilian infrastructure and to ensure the safety of the area.
“We must tell it like it is – any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia is suicide,” he said.
Guterres said the U.N. has the logistics and security capacity to support any mission the IAEA undertakes to secure the plant, provided both Russia and Ukraine agree.
Lt. Gen. Igor Kirillov, commander of the Russian military's radiological, chemical and biological protection forces, claimed that Ukrainian troops were planning to strike the plant Friday during Guterres' visit to a port in Odesa in order to accuse Russia of nuclear terrorism. Both Ukraine and Russia have denied targeting the facility.
Kirillov said an emergency at the plant could see "a discharge of radioactive substances into the atmosphere and spread them hundreds of kilometers away."
Zelenskyy, Guterres and Erdogan also discussed efforts to end the war and ongoing shipments of Ukrainian grains brokered by the U.N. and Turkey that Russia for months had blocked from being shipped across the Black Sea to other countries, including African nations facing famine. About 560,000 tons of grain have been shipped so far, the U.N. says.
Guterres is visiting Istanbul on Saturday to see the Joint Coordination Center that is monitoring the export system, including inspections of inbound and outbound ships demanded by Russia.
The center said it expects inspections teams to conduct checks Thursday on four ships that departed Ukraine earlier this week.
Those include the Osprey S, which is carrying corn to Turkey, the Ramus and its cargo of wheat bound for Turkey, the Brave Commander carrying wheat to Djibouti and the Bonita carrying corn to South Korea.
Four other ships are set to be inspected on their way to Ukraine. Russia has sought to ensure that inbound vessels are not bringing weapons for Ukrainian forces.
Three more ships departed Ukraine’s Black Sea ports on Wednesday. The coordination center said the Sara, carrying 8,000 metric tons of corn, and the Efe, carrying 7,250 tons of sunflower oil, left the Odesa port and were bound for Turkey.
The Petrel S, loaded with 18,500 metric tons of sunflower meal, left the Chornomorsk port and was headed to Amsterdam, the coordination center said.
Since exports began Aug. 1, 24 vessels have left Ukraine.
Meanwhile, fighting raged on, with Ukrainian officials saying that at least 11 people were killed and 40 wounded in Russian barrage of missile strikes on Ukraine's Kharkiv region on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Russia claimed that it struck a base for foreign mercenaries there, killing 90.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.