A ‘quick visit’ to the shelled Zaporizhzhia nuclear site is needed by independent inspectors, leaders of the US, UK, Germany and France say.
Calls grew for military restraint around the Moscow-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine as Western leaders vowed to maintain their backing for Kyiv in the war against Russia.
In a phone call on Sunday, the four leaders also called for a “quick visit” to the nuclear site by independent inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s spokesman.
A flare-up in fighting around the Russian-controlled nuclear power station, with both sides blaming each other for attacks, has raised the spectre of a disaster worse than in Chernobyl.
Moscow on Thursday said Kyiv was preparing a “provocation” at the site that would see Russia “accused of creating a man-made disaster at the plant”.
On Friday, the French presidency said Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed that IAEA inspectors can travel to the nuclear plant for an inspection.
During their talks on Sunday, Scholz, United States President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also “agreed that support for Ukraine in its defence against Russian aggression would be sustained”.
The Russian capture of Zaporizhzhia has renewed fears that the largest of Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors could be damaged, setting off an emergency on the scale of Chernobyl in 1986.
The world’s worst nuclear disaster began with the failure of a routine systems test and took place about 110km (68 miles) north of the capital Kyiv, when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has previously said the consequences of a radiation accident at Zaporizhzhia “could be even more catastrophic than Chernobyl, and essentially the same as the use of nuclear weapons by Russia, but without a nuclear strike”.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last week said he was “gravely concerned” at the situation around the facility, renewing his call for demilitarisation of the plant.