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Russia urged to leave Ukraine nuclear plant

The International Atomic Energy Agency's board voted 26-2 to call for Russia's immediate exit from Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

IAEA's Board of Governors meeting in Vienna this week
IAEA's Board of Governors meeting in Vienna this week (AN/Dean Calma)

The United Nations nuclear watchdog's board voted 26-2 to call for Russia's immediate departure from Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and give control of it back to Ukrainian authorities.

The resolution approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-member Board of Governors on Thursday demands that Russia "immediately cease all actions against, and at, the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant and any other nuclear facility in Ukraine."

It was proposed by Canada and Poland on behalf of Ukraine. Russia and China opposed the resolution; seven nations abstained: Burundi, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Senegal, South Africa and Vietnam.

"This is a clear condemnation of Russia’s violent actions against nuclear power plants and installations, including in Zaporizhzhia," said Poland's foreign ministry.

IAEA has also called for a security zone to be established around the nuclear plant.

'Violent actions against nuclear facilities'

Board members said in the resolution that Russia's military occupation of Europe's largest nuclear plant, where continued shelling has caused damage to the facilities, significantly increases the risk of a radiation catastrophe that would endanger Ukraine and the region.

Russian forces have allowed Ukrainian staff to keep operating the nuclear plant under conditions that IAEA considers unsafe.

The resolution says IAEA's board "deplores the Russian Federation’s persistent violent actions against nuclear facilities in Ukraine, including forcefully seizing of control of nuclear facilities and other violent actions in connection with a number of nuclear facilities and other radioactive materials."

Russia indicated it will not heed the resolution. Russia’s U.N. mission in Vienna said the resolution ignores the shelling "carried out by Ukraine, which Western countries support and protect in every possible way." Russia and Ukraine have repeatedly blamed each other for the shelling.

"Such a resolution has no operational consequences, it is of a political and propaganda nature," Russia's U.N. Ambassador in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov told Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti on Friday.

"Since it contains a lot of gross factual errors and distortions," he said, "its significance tends to zero, and perhaps even to a minus, rather."

This story has been updated with additional details.