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Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said an agreement on moving heavy weapons from Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant is still being worked out but said a decision had been made to send IAEA teams to all Ukrainian nuclear power plants.
There are no specifics yet, Shmyhal said on December 13 after meetings in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron and Rafael Grossi, director-general of the UN’s nuclear watchdog, regarding the Zaporizhzhya plant.
“The Russians still have a difficult attitude toward [Zaporizhzhya],” Shmyhal said on Ukrainian television. “Negotiations are being conducted by both the French side and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),” he said.
The decision to send IAEA teams to all plants is part of an effort to avert a war-zone catastrophe.
"This is especially important at a time when Ukraine’s energy infrastructure is facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the war and in the middle of the winter," said Grossi after talks with Shmyhal on the sidelines of a donor's conference in Paris.
Shmyhal said the missions are "aimed at securing the plants and recording all attempts to externally influence them, in particular shelling by the Russian aggressor."
A small team of IAEA officials has already been at the Zaporizhzhya plant for months trying to maintain the facility amid regular shelling.
"Our mission at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant has shown the vital importance of the IAEA being there to monitor the situation and give technical advice,” Grossi said. “Thanks to this presence, the IAEA is providing the world with impartial, technical, and factual information about developments on the ground.”
There have also been recurring visits to other nuclear plants, including Khmelnytskiy, Rivne, and Chernobyl, the site of the 1986 nuclear accident. Under the new IAEA plan, these missions will turn into a permanent presence.
The two also discussed the need for a security zone around Zaporizhzhya, which has had to rely on backup power to continue running systems to cool its reactors several times amid the fighting. Grossi has been campaigning for the security zone for months.
Macron announced earlier on December 13 that an agreement to withdraw heavy weapons from Zaporizhzhya had been reached and talks were under way to carry this out.
Kremlin spokesman Dmytro Peskov said Russia had not deployed heavy weapons at the Zaporizhzhya power plant. During a conference call with reporters, Peskov also said Russia continues to maintain contact with the IAEA.
Russia seized the plant in early March. It has come under fire several times, raising fears of a nuclear accident. Kyiv and Moscow have blamed each other for the shelling.
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