Sounding alarm bells, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said he is gravely concerned about fighting near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine.
After meeting Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Lviv on Thursday, Guterres warned, “Any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia is suicide”.
Guterres said military equipment and personnel should be withdrawn from the plant. He said the facility must not be used as part of any military operation, instead, the agreement is urgently needed to re-establish Zaporizhzhia’s purely civilian infrastructure and to ensure the safety of the area.
The meeting was the first between the UN chief and Zelensky since Russia launched its military action in February.
Erdogan echoed the UN chief’s concerns, saying that he was worried about the danger of “another Chernobyl” disaster erupting at the plant.
In recent weeks the area around the facility has come under heavy artillery fire, with both Kyiv and Moscow blaming each other for the attacks.
The Ukrainian president urged the UN to ensure demilitarisation of the nuclear plant – Europe’s biggest. Guterres added that “the facility must not be used as part of any military operation”, information from UNIC said.
In close contact with the IAEA, the UN Secretariat has assessed that we have in Ukraine the logistics and security capabilities to support any IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant from Kyiv, provided both Russia and Ukraine agree, Guterres said while adding military equipment and personnel should be withdrawn from the plant.
Further deployment of forces or equipment to the site must be avoided. The area needs to be demilitarized, he said.
Guterres also discussed the investigation of the tragic incident in a detention facility in Olenivka on July 29.
What happened there is unacceptable. All prisoners of war are protected under International Humanitarian Law. The International Committee of the Red Cross must have access to them wherever they are kept.
Guterres said that he had decided to establish a Fact-Finding mission.
The Terms of Reference of the mission were shared with Ukraine and the Russian Federation, as well as the make-up of the team. It is my intention to appoint General Carlos dos Santos Cruz of Brazil to lead this mission, Guterres said.
General Santos Cruz is a respected officer with over 40 years of national and international public security and military experience, including as a commander of UN peacekeeping operations.
We will now continue to work to obtain the necessary assurances to guarantee secure access to Olenivka and any other relevant locations, Guterres said, adding, “To put it simply, a fact-finding mission must be free to find the facts”.
The team must be able to gather and analyze the necessary information. Above all, that means safe, secure and unfettered access to people, places and evidence without any interference from anybody, he said.