Ukraine wants Russia out of international atomic watchdog

Kiev has accused Moscow of "nuclear terrorism" after Russian troops took over several Ukrainian nuclear power plants

Ukraine along with its allies is working to expel Russia from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), or at least remove its representatives from key posts in the watchdog, a Ukrainian official told journalists on Sunday.

According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, it was Elena Zerkal, an adviser to Ukraine's energy minister, who revealed that such efforts were underway. The Ukrainian government has claimed that Russia's alleged "policy of nuclear terrorism" is an "indisputable basis" for the country's expulsion from the international atomic watchdog. Kiev cited Russian troops taking over several Ukrainian nuclear plants as an example of the said behavior.

Russian troops took control of the defunct Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on the first day of Moscow's military offensive, February 24. Shortly afterwards, the Russian military issued a statement, saying that the plant's staff were continuing to work and there was no threat of a nuclear accident.

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A satellite image of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, March 2022. © Maxar Technologies/Getty Images
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Ukrainian authorities have, however, claimed that Russian troops are forcing staff to work long shifts without rotation – a situation the IAEA's Director General, Rafael Mariano Grossi, has called potentially dangerous. In a statement released last Tuesday, Grossi warned that the Chernobyl plant employees were operating "under enormous stress without the necessary rest."

On top of that, on March 9 the facility's power supply was cut, with staff having to switch on backup diesel generators to ensure that the cooling system functioned normally. Five days later, one of the power lines supplying the plant with electricity was restored. According to the Russian military, the outage was caused by a Ukrainian militia's shelling of a nearby electrical substation.

Kiev has also accused Russian troops of setting fire to the woods surrounding the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, releasing radioactive particles into the air.

On March 4, Russian forces took over the Zaporozhskaya Nuclear Power Plant in the south of Ukraine. According to media reports, one of the buildings in the compound caught fire as a result of fighting, with Kiev and Moscow blaming each other for the incident.

Apart from the plants now under Russian control, there are three more operational nuclear power plants across Ukraine.

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