Macron pleads with Putin to save Europe from nuclear disaster

Ukraine: Leak at nuclear plant could invoke NATO Article 5

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Speaking by phone, the two leaders expressed readiness for a “non-politicised interaction” on the matter with the participation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), according to the statement published on the Kremlin’s website.

“The Russian side drew attention to regular Ukrainian attacks on the plant’s facilities, including radioactive waste storage, which is fraught with catastrophic consequences,” it said.

Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of shelling the plant, risking a nuclear disaster. Operations at the plant were fully stopped on Sunday as a safety measure.

The two men also discussed global food security issues.

Putin told President Macron it was important for the European Union not to hinder supplies of Russian food and fertilisers to Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, according to the Kremlin.

The Elysee said in a statement that the French President had asked Putin to withdraw heavy and light weapons from the plant and that Moscow should abide by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) recommendations to ensure security at the site.

“The president will remain in contact with President Zelensky as well as the director general of the IAEA and will speak again in the coming days with President Putin so that an accord to guarantee security at the power plant can be found,” the Elysee added.

The IAEA has called for a security zone to be established around the site.

On Sunday, the agency said a backup power line to the plant had been restored, providing it with the external electricity it needs to cool its reactors and defend against the risk of a meltdown.

State agency Energoatom had earlier said it halted operations at the plant as a safety step.

The plant “is completely stopped” after the agency disconnected the number 6 power unit from the grid at 3:41 am, it said in a statement.

“Preparations are underway for its cooling and transfer to a cold state.”

Kyiv on Wednesday called for residents of Russian-occupied areas around the plant, Europe’s largest, to evacuate for their own safety.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for the surrounding area to be demilitarised.

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Energoatom said the risk of further damage to the line “remains high”, which would force the plant to be “powered by diesel generators, the duration of which is limited by the technological resource and the amount of available diesel fuel.”

France on Sunday also said it would sign an agreement with Romania to help increase Ukrainian grain exports.

Ukraine’s grain exports have slumped since the start of the war because its Black Sea ports were closed off, driving up global food prices and prompting fears of shortages.

“Tomorrow, I will sign an accord with Romania that will allow Ukraine to get even more grains out … towards Europe and developing countries, notably in the Mediterranean (countries)which need it for food,” Transport Minister Clement Beaune told France Inter radio.

The International Monetary Fund is also looking for ways to provide emergency funding to countries facing war-induced food price shocks and will discuss measures at an executive board meeting on Monday.

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