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Putin warns Macron of risk of ‘catastrophe’ at Ukraine nuclear plant

french president macron speaks at the vivatech conference in paris
French President Emmanuel Macron

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that shelling of the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, which he blamed on Kyiv, could result in a large-scale disaster.

Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of shelling Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which was captured by Russia in March but is still run by Ukrainian technicians. Only two of the facility’s six reactors are working. 

“Vladimir Putin, in particular, stressed that the systematic shelling of the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant by the Ukrainian military created the danger of a large-scale catastrophe that could lead to radiation contamination of vast territories,” the Kremlin said in a readout of the call, which it said had been initiated by Macron.

Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of planning provocations at the plant. Kyiv said that Russian forces planned to disconnect the facility from the Ukrainian power grid and link it up to the Russian one.

The Kremlin said that Putin and Macron had stressed the importance of sending a delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the plant as soon as possible.

Putin confirmed Russia’s readiness to provide IAEA inspectors with the necessary assistance, according to the Kremlin.

In the call, Putin also told Macron about continuing obstacles to supplying Russian food and fertilizer products to world markets.

Meanwhile, Macron’s phone call to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin was justified in view of the serious safety risk affecting the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine which is subject to combat activity, an official at the French presidency told journalists in a briefing.

Macron, who last called Putin in May, had been criticised in the past for keeping up diplomatic talks with Putin despite his decision to invade Ukraine and actions by the Russian army that international observers qualified as war crimes.

The Elysee official added that during the call, in which the two leaders agreed on the need to send a mission by the International Atomic Energy Agency to the plant, Putin expressed his readiness to re-consider a previous demand by which the mission should travel to the site via Russian soil.

Ukraine and its western partners want the mission to reach the site from Ukraine.

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