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Putin, Macron press for UN watchdog probe of imperiled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Russian president blames ‘systematic shelling’ by Ukraine for danger at facility, claims Moscow still facing challenges in exporting products after UN-brokered deal

A Russian serviceman guards in an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine, Sunday, May 1, 2022. (AP Photo, File)
A Russian serviceman guards in an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine, Sunday, May 1, 2022. (AP Photo, File)

MOSCOW, Russia — Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron called for independent inspections at the Moscow-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, the Kremlin said in a statement Friday.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was seized by Russian troops in March and recent fighting around it has raised the specter of a nuclear incident comparable to Chernobyl.

Both Kyiv and Moscow have this week accused each other of preparing “provocations” at the facility.

According to the Kremlin, both leaders called for experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect the plant “as soon as possible” and “assess the real situation on the ground.”

Putin “stressed that the systematic shelling by the Ukrainian military of the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant creates the danger of a large-scale catastrophe that could lead to radiation contamination of vast territories,” the Kremlin said.

“The Russian side confirmed its readiness to provide the Agency inspectors with the necessary assistance,” the statement said.

French President Emmanuel Macron, right, welcomes Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Fort of Bregancon in Bormes-les-Mimosas, southern France, Monday Aug. 19, 2019. (Gerard Julien, Pool via AP, File)

The plant — the biggest in Europe — was targeted by several strikes in recent days, increasing fears of a nuclear disaster. Both Kyiv and Moscow have traded blame over the attacks.

During the same call — their first in nearly three months — Putin told Macron that Russia was facing obstacles in the export of its food products and fertilizer.

“There are still obstacles to the mentioned Russian exports that does not contribute to the solution of problems related to ensuring global food security,” the Kremlin said.

Last month in Istanbul, Russia and Ukraine signed landmark deals with Turkey and the United Nations that opened secure corridors for grain exports to leave Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

A similar agreement signed at the same time allowed Russia to export its agricultural products and fertilizer despite Western sanctions over Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine.

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