The G7 called on Russia to return control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to full Ukrainian control Saturday following reports that Russia had kidnapped leading Ukrainian employees from the facility.
The power plant has been a major concern for both Ukraine and Russia throughout President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the country, posing a threat of nuclear disaster if it is damaged or left in disrepair amid the conflict. The G7 nations include the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.K.
“We condemn Russia’s repeated kidnapping of Ukrainian leadership and staff and denounce the application of other forms of pressure on remaining Ukrainian personnel,” the G7 announced in a statement. “These actions further impair the nuclear safety and security of the ZNPP [Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant] by preventing key personnel from executing their indispensable functions. We strongly reject these reckless, cruel, and dangerous acts and demand the immediate release of those detained.”
“We urge Russia to immediately return full control of the ZNPP to its rightful sovereign owner, Ukraine, to remove all Russian personnel from the facility, and to stop any attempts to recklessly and dangerously place the ZNPP under Russian administration, which could further jeopardize its safe and secure operations,” the statement added.
A Russian serviceman stands guard the territory outside the second reactor of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station. (ANDREY BORODULIN/AFP via Getty Images) (Photo by ANDREY BORODULIN/AFP via Getty Images)
SCHWECHAT, AUSTRIA – SEPTEMBER 02: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi speaks to the media at Vienna International Airport upon his return from inspecting the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on September 2, 2022 in Schwechat, Austria. ((Photo by Heinz-Peter Bader/Getty Images))
The statement went on to reject Russia’s claimed annexation of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions of Ukraine.
An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team deployed to the power plant in September reported that the facility has been “severely damaged” by artillery attacks. Both Russia and Ukraine deny targeting the plant.
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in southeastern Ukraine is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and among the 10 largest in the world. (STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)
“The first important safety pillar that exists in any nuclear facility is not to violate its physical integrity,” IAEA general director Rafael Grossi said at the time. “And unfortunately…this has happened. This happened and this continues to happen. The physical attack, wittingly or unwittingly – the hits that this facility has received and that I could personally see and assess together with my experts – is simply unacceptable.”
“We are playing with fire and something very, very catastrophic could take place,” he added.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for U.N. troops to deploy to the facility and upkeep it for the duration of the conflict.