UN Nuclear Chief Urges Russia, Ukraine to Ban Attacks at Europe’s Largest Nuclear Power Plant 

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is seen from around twenty kilometers away in an area in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine, Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. (AP)
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is seen from around twenty kilometers away in an area in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine, Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. (AP)
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UN Nuclear Chief Urges Russia, Ukraine to Ban Attacks at Europe’s Largest Nuclear Power Plant 

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is seen from around twenty kilometers away in an area in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine, Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. (AP)
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is seen from around twenty kilometers away in an area in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine, Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. (AP)

The UN nuclear chief stressed Tuesday that the world is fortunate a nuclear accident hasn’t happened in Ukraine and asked Moscow and Kyiv to commit to preventing any attack on Europe’s largest nuclear power plant and make other pledges "to avoid the danger of a catastrophic incident."

Rafael Grossi reiterated to the UN Security Council what he told the International Atomic Energy Agency’s board of governors in March: "We are rolling a dice and if this continues then one day our luck will run out."

The IAEA director general said avoiding a nuclear accident is possible if five principles are observed at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, where fighting on seven occasions, most recently last week, disrupted critical power supplies, "the last line of defense against a nuclear accident."

Grossi "respectfully and solemnly" asked Ukraine and Russia to observe the principles, saying IAEA experts at Zaporizhzhia will start monitoring and he will publicly report on any violations:

— Ban attacks from or against the plant, especially targeting reactors and spent fuel storage areas.

— Ban the storage of heavy weapons or presence of military personnel that could be used for an attack.

— Ensure the security of an uninterrupted off-site power supply to the plant.

— Protect "all structures, systems and components" essential to the plant’s operation from attacks or acts of sabotage.

— Take no action to undermine these principles.

Grossi asked the 15 Security Council members to support the five principles, stressing that they are "to no one’s detriment and to everyone’s benefit."

The Kremlin’s forces took over the plant after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy opposes any proposal that would legitimize Russia’s control.

Neither the Russian nor Ukrainian ambassador gave a commitment to support the principles.

Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya accused Russia of continuing "to actively use the nuclear plant for military purposes." He said Russia has mined its perimeter and is responsible for shelling that has inflicted "serious damage" on parts of the plant, undermining its safety. He claimed 500 Russian military personnel are at the plant along with heavy weapons, munitions and explosives.

"The threat of dangerous accident as a result of these irresponsible and criminal actions hangs over us," he said.

Kyslytsya said Ukraine takes "note" of Grossi’s five principles but urges him to add several more, starting with the withdrawal of all Russian personnel from the Zaporizhzhia plant, guarantees of uninterrupted power to the plant from Ukraine, and a humanitarian corridor to ensure that Ukrainian and IAEA personnel at the plant can be rotated safely.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia denied that Russia has ever attacked the Zaporizhzhia plant, placed heavy weapons there or stationed military personnel at the plant to carry out an attack from its territory.

He accused Ukraine of shelling the plant and said "Russia will take the most severe measures" to respond to any Ukraine attack.

Nebenzia insisted that nuclear safety remains a priority for Russia and urged the IAEA to "openly condemn Ukraine’s actions, which have repeatedly brought the world to the brink of a nuclear catastrophe."

Britain’s UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward said an IAEA report in February confirmed the continuing presence of Russian military troops, equipment and land mines.

"New imagery shows Russian forces have established sandbag fighting positions on the roofs of several of the six reactor buildings," she said. "This indicates that they have integrated the actual reactor buildings of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant into tactical defense planning."

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield urged council members to support the five principles, but accused Russia of demonstrating "flagrant disregard" for them.

"To make matters worse, recent news reports indicate that Moscow has disconnected Zaporizhzhia's vital radiation monitoring sensors, which means the plant’s data is now being sent to the Russian nuclear regulator," she said,

"This is a clear escalation of Russia’s efforts to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty and authority over the Zaporizhzhia plant," Thomas-Greenfield said. "And this undermines our ability to have confidence in the level of nuclear safety at the plant."

Grossi, asked whether he felt he had received commitments from Russia and Ukraine to the five principles, replied that the council meeting showed "there is a consensus on the fact that no nuclear accident should happen."

"The important thing is that the minimum common denominator, which are these basic five principles, have been widely supported and there was no voice opposing them," he said. "This indicates that what we are saying is something no one has a contradictory view upon."



Biden Battles COVID and Democrats as Crisis Grows

President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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Biden Battles COVID and Democrats as Crisis Grows

President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Joe Biden holed up at his beach house Thursday, battling both a bout of COVID and calls by senior allies for him to abandon his 2024 reelection bid.

While rival Donald Trump prepared for his star turn at the Republican National Convention, the 81-year-old US president found himself in both personal and political isolation.

The top Democrats in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, both reportedly met with Biden in recent days to warn that his candidacy threatens his party's prospects in November's election.

Influential former House speaker Nancy Pelosi added to his woes by privately telling Biden he cannot win and could harm Democrats' chances of recapturing the lower chamber, CNN reported.

Several party figures were meanwhile quoted anonymously by the Axios news outlet as saying that they believed the pressure would persuade Biden to drop out as soon as this weekend.

Biden has insisted he is not backing down, adamant that he is the candidate who beat Trump before and will do it again this year. Pressed about reports that Biden might be softening to the idea of leaving the race, his deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks said Thursday: “He is not wavering on anything.”

"He's staying in the race," Fulks told a press conference on the sidelines of the Republican convention in Milwaukee.

"Our campaign is not working through any scenarios where President Biden is not the top of the ticket -- he is and will be the Democratic nominee."

California Senator Alex Padilla said Biden was "not skipping a beat."

"I know having spoken to him personally he's committed to the campaign," he added.

Using mountains of data showing Biden’s standing could wipe out the ranks of Democrats in Congress, frank conversations in public and private, and now, the president’s own time off the campaign trail after testing positive for COVID-19, many Democrats see an opportunity to encourage a reassessment.

Biden told reporters on Wednesday that he was "doing well."

His COVID diagnosis however came at the worst possible time for his campaign, forcing him to cut short a trip to Las Vegas and isolate at his holiday home in Rehoboth, Delaware.

The split-screen with Trump could not have been more stark, with Trump set to formally accept the Republican nomination in Milwaukee.

US networks showed images of frail looking Biden gingerly descending the steps of Air Force One in Delaware, in a week when Trump is lauded by supporters each night at a packed party convention.

Former president Trump, who at 78 is just three years younger than Biden, is riding a wave of support from his party after surviving an assassination attempt on Saturday that left him with a bandaged ear.

The United States could now be approaching the climax of an extraordinary three weeks in politics, which started when Biden gave a disastrous performance during a televised debate with Trump.

Biden blamed jet lag and a cold, but the fact that America's commander-in-chief has now fallen ill for a second time just as fears grow about his fitness for the job has merely intensified the panic in Democratic ranks.