Vladimir Putin | Photo: AFP
Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday welcomed the idea to hold a trilateral meeting of the IAEA, Russia and Ukraine as "useful" and said it could be held by video link or in a third country, amidst growing global concern over the safety of the nuclear power plants in war-torn Ukraine.
Russia's armed forces earlier seized control of the Zaporozhskaya and Chernobyl nuclear power stations during a "special military operation" in Ukraine.
Russia says its invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea is a special military operation, which President Putin claims, without any evidence, is needed to demilitarise and denazify the neighbouring country.
Putin welcomed the idea of a meeting between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Russia and Ukraine via video link or in a third country, the Kremlin said in a statement following phone talks between the Russian president and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.
"Commenting on the proposal of the Director General of the IAEA mentioned by the President of France to hold a trilateral (IAEA-Russia-Ukraine) meeting in the Chernobyl zone to develop a mechanism for ensuring the safety of nuclear facilities in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin noted that in principle this idea could be useful, but it would be worth considering holding such a meeting by video link or in a third country,” the statement said.
During the telephone conversation between Macron and Putin, the French president voiced his concern about the situation with nuclear power plants in Ukraine.
Macron is one of several world leaders who have talked to Putin in recent days hoping to broker a ceasefire in Ukraine.
Earlier on Sunday, Putin spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who appealed for an urgent cessation of hostilities.
Ukraine has told the IAEA that two out of the 6 reactors at the country's largest Zaporizhhzhya Nuclear Power Station (NPP) are working and the radiation levels are normal, days after Russian forces took control of the site, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi has said.
Staff at the Chernobyl NPP - which has been under the control of Russian forces since last week - have been on site since February 23 without being able to rotate the shift of technical personnel and guards.
The conflict in Ukraine could put the safety of nuclear facilities there at risk, Grossi had warned on Wednesday.
Addressing an emergency meeting of the IAEA's Board of Governors, Grossi said that he remains gravely concerned over the “unprecedented situation” in Ukraine.
But Russia has claimed that Ukraine nationalists could organise "provocations that could have potential for with catastrophic consequences."
“Attempts to shift responsibility for this incident onto the Russian military are part of a cynical propaganda campaign,” the Kremlin claimed on Sunday.
“Russian troops, in cooperation with the Ukrainian security unit and staff, continue to ensure the operation of the nuclear power plant in a routine mode, and the radioactivity level remains normal.”
Earlier this week, the US and its allies condemned Russia for its invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations, especially over its shelling and seizure of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, Europe's biggest nuclear power plant.
Many of the UN Security Council's 15 members expressed "grave concern" and shock, warning against the possibility of a repeat of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. PTI