Reacting to the IAEA report on the situation of the nuclear power plant, the Russian president stressed that the bombardments could only come from the Ukrainian side, unless he believed that the Russian soldiers would open fire on their comrades.
“It’s total delirium”: Vladimir Putin did not mince his words on September 7 when commenting, on the occasion of the Eastern Economic Forum held in Vladivostok, on the hypothesis according to which the Russian troops could be responsible for the shootings having endangered the integrity of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant. An absurd idea, according to the leader, insofar as they already control these installations.
A delegation of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) went there and on September 6 issued a report evoking an “untenable” situation, while calling for an immediate halt to the bombardments “on the site and surrounding area. The authors of the report, however, did not explicitly comment on who was responsible for these shootings, of which kyiv and Moscow have been accusing each other for weeks.
So does this mean that we are pulling on ourselves?
The Russian head of state stressed that he trusted the work of the IAEA, “a very serious international organization”, describing its director, Rafael Grossi, as “very professional”. However, he considered that the Agency’s teams find themselves “under pressure from the countries where they work, in particular from the United States, from European countries”, which would have prevented them from “explicitly saying that the bombings are carried out from Ukrainian territory”.
“We control the station, there are our soldiers there,” recalled Vladimir Putin, who swept aside the thesis of Moscow’s responsibility in the strikes that hit the area. “Does that mean that we are shooting at ourselves?” he wondered, seeing in this reasoning a “total delirium”. According to him, some Western interlocutors would also have recognized that such an explanation “contradicts common sense”.
The Russian president also wanted to rectify another important point in the report, which mentions the presence of Russian military equipment inside the plant, which Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed. According to Vladimir Putin, the IAEA’s request to remove this equipment makes little sense since “there is no military equipment on the territory of the plant”, he said, emphasizing that “IAEA staff should have seen this”. There would thus be on the spot only members of the Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia), who “secure the perimeter and the interior of the power station”.
These remarks by the Russian head of state follow a series of criticisms addressed by both Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the Russian ambassador to the UN, Vassili Nebenzia, who asked for “clarifications” on several points of the report. The latter maintained, on September 6, that the “only threat” against the site came from “bombardments and sabotage by the Ukrainian armed forces” and confirmed the absence of artillery on the site, specifying that the military equipment was limited to “trucks used to transport him from the guards”.
On September 2, Ukraine admitted to being behind a strike on a Russian base in Energodar, the city where the plant is located, and affirmed that the Russian forces had evacuated “all their military equipment from the site of the plant” before the arrival of the IAEA mission, some of whose members remained on the spot.
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