U.N. Demands Russia Immediately Return Europe's Biggest Nuclear Plant To Ukraine

U.N. Demands Russia Immediately Return Europe's Biggest Nuclear Plant To Ukraine

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution Thursday demanding that Russia urgently withdraw its military and personnel from Europe’s largest nuclear power plant and immediately return the facility to Ukraine.

The resolution also reiterates the assembly’s demands for Russia to immediately “cease its aggression against Ukraine” and withdraw all troops, and again reaffirms the 193-member world body’s commitment to Ukraine’s “sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity.”

The resolution was approved by a vote of 99-9 with 60 countries abstaining and 25 countries not voting.

Russia was joined by Belarus, Cuba, Eritrea, Mali, Nicaragua, Syria, Burundi and North Korea in opposing the resolution. China, India, South Africa and many Middle Eastern countries were among those abstaining.

The resolution expresses “grave concern over the precarious nuclear safety and security situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.” It says returning the plant to Ukraine’s full control will ensure its safety and security and enable the International Atomic Energy Agency “to conduct safe, efficient and effective safeguards.”

Fears of a nuclear catastrophe have been at the forefront since Russian troops occupied the plant shortly after invading Ukraine in February 2022. Zaporizhzhia, which has six nuclear reactors, sits in Russian-controlled territory in southeastern Ukraine near the front lines and has been continually caught in crossfire.

A Ukrainian emergency worker wearing a radiation protection suit attends training in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on June 29, 2023.
A Ukrainian emergency worker wearing a radiation protection suit attends training in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on June 29, 2023.

AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka

The IAEA has repeatedly expressed alarm about cuts to Zaporizhzhia’s electricity, which is crucial for the plant’s operation, and the plants’ supply issues. Without attributing blame, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi told the U.N. Security Council on April 15 that his agency had confirmed three attacks against Zaporizhzhia since April 7.

Both Ukraine and Russia have regularly accused the other of attacking the plant, and the accusations continued on Thursday.

Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya introduced the resolution, telling the General Assembly that Russia “continues to violate key principles of technological and physical nuclear security” and continues to attack the plant.

Ukraine and neighboring countries suffered “the disastrous consequences” of the nuclear explosion at the Chernobyl plant in 1986, he said, but the repercussions of a possible incident at Zaporizhzhia “which has been deliberately turned into a key component for the military strategy of Russia would be even more catastrophic.”

Kyslytsya warned that “if we simply stand with our arms crossed, that good luck will not last forever, and an incident will be inevitable.”

“Nuclear security and protection depend on our ability to adopt a strong and common stance on the inadmissibility of the continued occupation and militarization of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” the Ukrainian ambassador said.

Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky accused Ukraine and its Western supporters of trying to push through the resolution with the real goal of getting the General Assembly’s “blessing” for the outcome of last month’s Ukraine peace conference in Switzerland and “sneaking in political elements.”

In the conference communique, nearly 80 countries called for the “territorial integrity” of Ukraine to be the basis for any peace agreement to end the war. It also said Zaporizhzhia and other nuclear plants must remain under Ukrainian control in line with IAEA principles.

Polyansky accused the communique’s supporters of trying “to promote the false Western narrative about the source of threats to nuclear facilities in Ukraine.” He claimed that the only threat to nuclear facilities in Ukraine today is from Kyiv’s “regular, reckless attacks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” its related infrastructure, and the nearby city where plant employees and their families live.