Russia’s foreign ministry rejected U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ proposal to demilitarize the area around the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in Ukraine on Thursday, saying it would render the facility “more vulnerable”.
The plant, Europe’s largest of its kind, was taken over by Russia in March, just after President Vladimir Putin ordered tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine for a “special military operation”.
After Ukraine and Russia accused one other of shelling it, concerns over its safety and the risks of a Fukushima-style nuclear accident have grown in recent weeks.
Guterres, who is now in Ukraine, asked earlier this month for the departure of military troops and equipment from the power plant as well as the establishment of a “a safe perimeter of demilitarization.”
The Russian foreign ministry’s spokesman, Ivan Nechayev, told a briefing on Thursday that the idea was unacceptable to Moscow.
He accused Kyiv of orchestrating provocations and failing to control nationalist armed groups.
“That is the very reason that the proposals (on demilitarisation) are unacceptable,” Nechayev remarked.
“Implementing them would make the power station even more vulnerable.”
Russia claims to have some troops stationed at the plant to ensure its smooth operation and security.
Ukraine accuses Russia of using the plant as a shield from which to launch missiles at Ukrainian targets. It also claims that Russia has shelled the plant; Moscow claims that Ukraine is bombarding the facility.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) could visit the plant in the near future, according to Nechayev, and experts will be able to determine who was shelling it.
Russia, which claims to have no heavy weapons at the site, accused Kyiv and the West early on Thursday of planning a “provocation” there on Friday. Kyiv denounced the charge as cynical and false.