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(Alexei Filippo/AFP/Getty Images)
(Alexei Filippo/AFP/Getty Images)

While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky talked about Russia and nuclear weapons He criticized Russian forces’ recent operations at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on Tuesday during a joint press conference in Kyiv with International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi.

“Today on the 36th anniversary of the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the world was again just one step away from the disaster because the Russian forces, the plant and the whole was just another combat work area where they didn’t care about nuclear safety,” Zelensky said.

Zelensky accused Russian forces of operating with little regard for the nuclear danger and looting and damaging many areas of the station, including the system’s control center and laboratory.

Russian forces occupied the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine a few weeks ago and are now back under Ukrainian control.

He warned that their negligence indicated the danger of Russia’s use of nuclear weapons.

“Given the level of threat, we believe that Russia has no right to transform nuclear energy into weapons and blackmail the world with nuclear weapons,” Zelensky said.

During the press conference, Zelensky personally thanked the employees who remained for the maintenance of the plant during the occupation of Russian troops. The employees were awarded medals for their work.

Zelensky and Grossi discussed the current level of the nuclear threat and the damage to the facilities.

Grossi said he agreed that the IAEA would continue to work to restore capacity and infrastructure damaged in recent weeks.

“Despite these difficulties, it is important to look to the future, to look at peace, and the moment when Ukraine will regain the peace, tranquility, and security that all of its citizens deserve,” Grossi said.

Grossi made a working visit to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on the International Day of Remembrance of the Chernobyl disaster, marking the 36th anniversary of an explosion there that “spread a radioactive cloud over large parts of the Soviet Union, now the territories of Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation,” as the United Nations describes it.

The United Nations also says that approximately 8.4 million people in the three countries are known to have been exposed to radiation.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said of the visit, “We celebrate the day. We remember what we ought to remember. We give respect and honor to those who deserve it, but we work.”

Grossi said that during the working visit, the IAEA delivered the first batch of equipment, including radiation monitoring equipment. Speaking to reporters at the site, Grossi added that IAEA safety inspectors are working closely with their Ukrainian counterparts to monitor and compare radiation measurements at the plant and the restricted area, then maintain their presence “for as long as the situation requires.”

When asked by a reporter how close Chernobyl was to another disaster during the Russian occupation, Grossi said that while the situation was “completely different” from the 1986 explosion of a nuclear reactor in operation at the time, it “still could develop into an accident”. ”

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said that all credit for avoiding a worse fate rested with the operators.

“I think the first credit should go to the operators. To these people here, because they have continued their work despite all the difficulties. And despite the pressure on them despite the fact that they cannot work normally”