Western powers stress importance of nuclear safety in Ukraine

Russian forces captured the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in March 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS, AFP) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the leaders of the United States, France and Germany on Sunday (Aug 21) stressed the importance of ensuring the safety of nuclear sites in Ukraine in a call, Mr Johnson's office said.

"On a joint call, the Prime Minister, President (Joe) Biden, President (Emmanuel) Macron and Chancellor (Olaf) Scholz underlined their steadfast commitment to supporting Ukraine in the face of Russia's invasion," a Downing Street spokesman said in a statement.

"They stressed the importance of ensuring the safety and security of nuclear installations and welcomed recent discussions on enabling an IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) mission to the Zaporizhzhia facility."

The Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest of its kind in Europe, has seen repeated shelling recently, with both Kyiv and Moscow blaming each other for engaging in what they call "nuclear terrorism".

A flare-up in fighting has raised the spectre of a disaster worse than Chernobyl.

Russian forces captured the Zaporizhzhia plant in March during the early stages of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, although the plant is still run by Ukrainian technicians.

In their phone call, the four leaders also called for a “quick visit” to the nuclear site by independent inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s spokesman.

On Friday, the French presidency said Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed that IAEA inspectors can travel to the nuclear plant for an inspection.

During their talks on Sunday, Scholz, US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also “agreed that support for Ukraine in its defence against Russian aggression would be sustained”.

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