UN nuclear watchdog to hold emergency meeting on Ukraine, EU mulls sending weapons

International Atomic Energy Agency Board members Canada and Poland called the meeting at the request of Ukraine, which is not on the Board. PHOTO: REUTERS

VIENNA (REUTERS, AFP) - The UN nuclear watchdog's 35-nation Board of Governors will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday (March 2) about Ukraine, where war is raging in a country with four operational nuclear power plants and various waste facilities including Chernobyl.

Board members Canada and Poland called the meeting at the request of Ukraine, which is not on the Board, diplomats said.

International Atomic Energy Agency member states that are not on the Board, like Ukraine, can call a Board meeting but the possible range of topics is wider if a Board member calls one.

"The IAEA Board of Governors will hold a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the current situation in Ukraine," the IAEA said in a statement, confirming a report by Reuters.

The agenda item for the 11am (1000 GMT) meeting is: "The safety, security and safeguards implications of the situation in Ukraine," a diplomat said.

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began last week, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi has expressed concern and "called on all parties to refrain from any measures or actions that could jeopardise the security of nuclear material, and the safe operation of all nuclear facilities".

Russian forces have seized the spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste facilities at Chernobyl, the site of the world's worst nuclear accident at a now-defunct power plant.

Staff on duty there have not been changed since Thursday, the IAEA said on Saturday, citing Ukraine's nuclear regulator.

Staff at Chernobyl must be able to work and rest as normal, the IAEA said on Saturday, meaning they must be rotated out to ensure the site's safety.

Diplomats say Ukrainian authorities have also informed the IAEA that Russian missiles hit a radioactive waste disposal site in Kyiv overnight but there was no visible damage and the results of on-site radioactive monitoring were pending.

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EU mulls helping Ukraine with weapons

EU foreign ministers will on Sunday look at helping Ukraine against the Russian offensive by discussing the funding of "lethal material" and supplies such as fuel, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

Their emergency meeting, by video link, will also examine additional EU sanctions announced overnight by European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen.

They include cutting certain Russian banks out of the global Swift network, harming their ability to do cross-border transfers, and blocking the Russian central bank's access to its reserves.

"Today's discussion by EU Foreign Ministers will pave the way for the swift adoption of all necessary legal acts," said a statement from Mr Borrell's office.

Mr Borrell "will propose to provide a measure composed of lethal equipment, such as ammunition, and a measure for non-lethal equipment and supplies to the Ukrainian army, such as fuel and urgent medical supplies," it said.

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Several EU officials said that EU countries had individually been sending "significant" shipments of weapons to Ukraine.

Germany has said it sending 1,400 anti-tank rockets and 500 ground-to-air Stinger missiles. The Netherlands announced the dispatch of 200 Stingers and rifles. Belgium said it 2,000 machine guns and 3,800 tonnes of fuel were on the way. The Czech Republic is delivering 30,000 pistols, 7,000 assault rifles, 3,000 machine guns, several sniper rifles and a million cartridges.

Portugal said it was sending night-vision googles, grenades and ammunition. Romania was shipping fuel, bullet-proof vests, helmets, munition and other military equipment. France and Greece said they were sending unspecified military equipment.

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The foreign ministers' meeting was to begin at 1700 GMT, with Mr Borrell expected to give a media conference afterwards at 1900 GMT.

It was to be preceded by another emergency meeting of EU interior ministers, gathered in-person at 1400 GMT in Brussels.

They will discuss Europe's humanitarian response to the conflict in Ukraine, notably on taking in the hundreds of thousands of refugees flowing out of the country to escape the Russian assault.

Mr Borrell also said EU foreign ministers would adopt a third round of sanctions on Russia at a virtual meeting later on Sunday.

The measures will include the exclusion of some Russian banks from the global payment system Swift, he said on Twitter.

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