Russia-Ukraine Crisis: Blame game over nuclear plant attack

Russia-Ukraine Crisis: Blame game over nuclear plant attack

AgenciesUpdated: Sunday, March 06, 2022, 08:59 AM IST
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This image made from a video released by Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant shows bright flaring object landing in grounds of the nuclear plant in Enerhodar, Ukraine, on Friday | AP

The United States and its allies have accused Russia of attacking Ukraine's largest nuclear power plant and putting the lives of millions of Europeans at risk of radiation fallout, but Russia claimed a "Ukrainian sabotage group” was responsible for setting fire to a nearby training facility.

At an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council after photos of a burning building sent shock waves around the world of a possible nuclear disaster on Friday, the head of the UN nuclear agency reaffirmed that no reactors were hit and the Zaporizhzhia plant in the southeastern city of Enerhodar was operating normally.

But International Atomic Energy Agency DirectorGeneral Rafael Mariano Grossi didn't say who was responsible for firing a “projectile” that hit a building adjacent to a block of six reactors at the plant sparking a fire.

He said the IAEA was informed a few days ago by Russia that its forces were moving to take control of the plant.

Their advance toward its perimeter “was met with opposition and some group of civilians attacking the access to the plant,” he said, and early Friday the IAEA “got information that a projectile had impacted a building adjacent to the block of reactors — six of them.”

For Ukraine and Western countries and allies on the Security Council, there was no question that Russia was responsible for firing the projectile. The emergency meeting was called by the US, UK, France, Norway, Ireland, and Albania.

Britain's UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward said “Russia's reckless attack” marked the first time that any country “has attacked a fuelled and functioning nuclear power plant.”

In doing so, she said, it had breached international law and the Geneva Convention on the conduct of war which states that “dams, dykes, and nuclear electrical generating stations, shall not be made the object of attack.”

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield opened her remarks saying: “By the grace of God, the world narrowly averted a nuclear catastrophe last night.”

She called Russia's attack “incredibly reckless and dangerous,” saying “it threatened the safety of civilians across Russia, Ukraine and Europe.”

Dr Alex Rosen, a paediatrician and vice-president of the German affiliate of the Nobel prize-winning group International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, said the attack “clearly shows the danger of fighting war in a nuclear state.”

Had the projectile hit a spent fuel pond at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant or one of its six reactors, the prevalent winds Friday morning could have spread radioactive fallout toward the southeast, across the Azov Sea straight into Russia, engulfing the city of Rostov and continuing toward Georgia, Rosen said in an interview.

Russia's UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia rejected claims that its military forces attacked the plant as “simply untrue” and part of “an unprecedented campaign of lies and disinformation against Russia.”

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