Ukraine makes plea for UN intervention for under threat plant

In a sign of the continuing precariousness of the situation, Ukraine wants the United Nations to send peacekeepers to the threatened Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

The move is needed even without a deal with Russia to establish a safety zone there, the head of Ukraine’s state nuclear power company said.

Ukraine has called for UN peacekeepers at the site since September.

However, this is understood to be the first time that a Ukraine nuclear official has suggested publicly peacekeepers should be deployed in the absence of an agreement to create a safety zone at the plant, which Russia took control of soon after invading the country on 24 February.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, Europe’s largest, has suffered repeated shelling and power cuts, raising concerns of radioactive catastrophe. 

Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), had hoped to mediate an agreement between Russia and Ukraine on a safety zone by January.

Petro Kotin, the head of Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom, said the absence of a deal means the UN Security Council, of which Russia is a permanent member, should deploy peacekeepers. 

The prospects for such a move remain uncertain. Russia could veto any Security Council resolution for peacekeepers. But Kotin said this would raise public awareness of Moscow’s actions.

He said a peacekeeping force would be a way to end Russian control of the plant. However, the absence of a safety zone could complicate drawing the boundaries for a peacekeeping mission’s area of control, potentially exposing peacekeepers to danger.

In October, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree transferring the plant from Energoatom to a subsidiary of Russia’s Rosatom, a move Kyiv said amounted to theft.