OREANDA-NEWS Russia and Ukraine are interested in the International Atomic Energy Agency plan to create a “protection zone” around the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said on Monday. While there has been no agreement yet, Grossi said both sides are “engaging” and have questions about the proposal.

Speaking with reporters, the IAEA chief said the proposed “nuclear safety and security protection zone” would “include” a ceasefire and “may include other things,” according to Reuters.

“Basically it's a commitment that no military action will include or will imply aiming, of course, at the plant, or a radius that could be affecting its normal operation. This is what we expect,” he said. “Diplomatic caution and professionalism requires prudence, but what I see is two sides that are engaging with us, that are asking questions, lots of questions.”

Grossi led a team of IAEA inspectors to the Zaporozhye NPP and nearby Energodar at the start of September. They observed the damage from artillery attacks on the Russian-controlled facility but declined to attribute blame. 

Moscow has registered almost 30 attacks on the facility since July, including at least two attempts by Ukrainian troops to storm the power plant – even as IAEA inspectors were visiting. Kiev has accused Russia of staging the shelling to discredit Ukraine, even though its military eventually admitted to targeting the area.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that there was “no discussion about the withdrawal of troops” from the Zaporozhye NPP. “The discussion is about forcing the Ukrainian side to stop the barbaric shelling of the facilities on the territory of the plant, which could lead to sad and catastrophic consequences,” Peskov said during a press briefing.

The Zaporozhye NPP, Europe’s largest, consists of six reactor blocks. The last of them was shut down on Sunday, with the local military-civilian administration citing the risks of continued Ukrainian shelling. According to Grossi, that is still not enough to avoid a nuclear meltdown, as the reactors require external power supply to operate safely.

Two IAEA officials are currently stationed at the Zaporozhye plant, as part of the agency’s “continuous presence” on the site.