UN Calls for Demilitarized Zone Surrounding Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

UN secretary general António Guterres has called for a demilitarized zone surrounding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, with Russian troops withdrawing from the area in exchange for guarantees that Ukraine will not move their forces in.

Guterres, speaking at a UN security council session, supported the recommendations put forward by Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) who inspected the occupied Zaporizhzhia plant last week and presented a report to the security council.

Grossi’s report confirmed the presence of Russian soldiers and military equipment at the plant, including army vehicles.

“We are playing with fire and something very, very catastrophic could take place. This is why in our report, we are proposing the establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone limited to the perimeter and the plant itself,” Grossi said.

Guterres said that, as a first step, Russian and Ukrainian forces should cease all military operations around the plant.

“As a second step, an agreement on a demilitarized perimeter should be secured,” he added. “Specifically, that will include the commitment by Russian forces to withdraw military personnel and equipment from that perimeter and the commitment by Ukrainian forces not to move in.”

The Russian ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, said that Ukrainian forces were responsible for recent shelling of the plant and claimed that Russian forces were protecting the plant. He did not give any response to the call for a demilitarized zone, saying he had not had time to read the IAEA report.

Ukrainian ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said that Kyiv would need to look at the details of the IAEA’s recommendations, but in principle supported the proposal of a demilitarized zone if it involved full Russian withdrawal.