By John Helmer, Moscow
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) decided this week to take the side of Ukraine in the current war; blame Russia for the shelling of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP); and issue a demand for Russia to surrender the plant to the Kiev regime “to regain full control over all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, including the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.”
This is the most dramatic shift by the United Nations (UN) nuclear power regulator in the 65-year history of the organisation based in Vienna.
The terms of the IAEA Resolution Number 58, which were proposed early this week by the Polish and Canadian governors on the agency board, were known in advance by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres when he spoke by telephone with President Vladimir Putin in the late afternoon of September 14, before the vote was taken. Guterres did not reveal what he already knew would be the IAEA action the next day.
According to the official IAEA text, the agency “1. expresses grave concern that the Russian Federation has not heeded the call of the Board to immediately cease all actions against and at nuclear facilities in Ukraine”[and] 2. 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 and the ongoing presence of Russian forces and Rosatom personnel at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, which continue to pose serious and direct threats to the safety and security of these facilities and their civilian personnel, thereby significantly raising the risk of a nuclear accident or incident, which endangers the population of Ukraine, neighbouring States and the international community.”
The IAEA makes no reference to its investigation of the artillery shelling of the ZNPP, or to the evidence presented by Russian and other sources that these attacks, and a attempted commando assault on the plant on September 1, were ordered and carried out by the government in Kiev.
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi speaks to the German, French and US media at ZNPP on September 1. The Bloomberg report indicated that Grossi’s visit was “the first time in the IAEA’s 65-year history that monitors crossed an active battlefront in order to carry out an inspection.” Grossi did not make accusations against either Russia or Ukraine, and subsequently proposed instead a no-fire zone around the plant. According to Bloomberg, “Ukraine and Russia have blamed each other for continued fighting in the area, with no way to independently verify their claims.”
The board of governors voted to demand Russia surrender, not only ZNPP, but all nuclear facilities “within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders.”
MAP OF UKRAINE NUCLEAR FACILITIES
The IAEA resolution calls “upon the Russian Federation to immediately cease all actions against, and at, the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant and any other nuclear facility in Ukraine, in order for the competent Ukrainian authorities to regain full control over all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, including the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, to ensure their safe and secure operation, and in order for the Agency to fully and safely conduct its safeguards verification activities, in accordance with Ukraine’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement entered into pursuant to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Statute.”
The agency’s board of governors has 35 members. This year they represent: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Burundi, Canada, China, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, India, Ireland, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, the Russian Federation, Senegal, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America and Viet Nam.
In an opening statement to the board, the IAEA Secretary General Rafaelo Grossi described his inspection visit to Zapoorzhye at the beginning of this month. “A nuclear safety and security protection zone,” he said, “is urgently needed and I have begun initial consultations with the relevant Parties. The protection zone is essential to end the repeated shelling of the Plant and of the off-site power infrastructure crucial for reactor cooling and systems needed to maintain safety now that all reactors at Zaporizhzhya NPP are in shutdown.” Grossi stopped short of identifying the source of the artillery attacks on the plant. The only demand he issued to the Russian side was to “recommend that the military vehicles currently present inside the buildings and around the buildings be removed so they do not interfere with the operation of the safety and security systems.”
The vote for the surrender resolution followed three days after Grossi’s speech. The voting rules for the governors can be followed here. Rules 36 and 37 provide for simple majority and super-majority votes when or if the board decides to apply them. Grossi was asked this morning through his spokesman, Fredrik Dahl, to say what voting rules were adopted for the resolution. Dahl (right) is an Austrian with a long career as a Reuters correspondent working on the NATO side during the war against Serbia and the US and Israeli campaigns against Iran. Dahl refused to answer the telephone or email questions.
Grossi’s press office was also asked to report the roll call on the resolution vote, identifying the countries voting for the resolution, and those voting against or abstaining. Dahl and his associates refused to reply. The IAEA website is not disclosing the vote.
Instead, the Russian representative on the IAEA board and the Embassy in Vienna published a report on Telegram. This reveals the 35-member board voted 26 in favour; Russia and China voted against; Burundi, Vietnam, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Senegal and South Africa voted to abstain. Twenty-six votes amount to 74% of the board; Rules 36 and 37 require a super majority of two thirds — that’s 23 votes.
In English: “Western countries have voted through an anti-Russian resolution on the Ukrainian issue in the IAEA Board of Governors. The Achilles heel of this resolution is that it does not say a word about the systematic shelling of the Zaporozhye NPP, which is the main problem from the point of view of ensuring nuclear safety and nuclear safety in the world. The reason is simple – the shelling is carried out by Ukraine, which Western countries strongly support and protect. Russia and China voted against this document. Abstaining were Burundi, Vietnam, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Senegal and South Africa. Thus, most of humanity refused to support this project.” Source: https://t.me/ViennaMissionRu/1703
In April, during a meeting in Moscow between President Putin and UN Secretary-General Guterres, he was warned against lying publicly about the sides in the conflict.
At the time and subsequently, Guterres’s spokesman refused to answer questions about what he knew of Ukrainian military use of civilians as shields in the fighting at the Azov steel plant and other war crimes. Russian doubt about Guterres’s neutrality and independence grew with his conduct of the negotiations over release of Ukrainian and Russian grain cargoes and Russian fertilizers for export.
On September 14 the Kremlin has recorded that Putin telephoned Guterres in the late afternoon, Moscow time. “The primary focus”, according to the Russian communiqué, “was on the implementation of the Istanbul package agreements on Ukrainian grain exports from Black Sea ports and exports of Russian foods and fertilisers. Both leaders emphasised the importance of prioritising the food needs of countries in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.”
Putin then raised the issue of the IAEA and ZNPP. “The situation around the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) was discussed, including the visit by the IAEA delegation on September 1. Vladimir Putin gave a positive assessment to the constructive cooperation with the agency and told the UN Secretary-General about the measures taken by Russia to ensure the security and physical protection of ZNPP facilities.”
There is no record of what Guterres told Putin in reply. However, in a press conference Guterres held soon after the call in New York, he acknowledged that “the last time I spoke with President Putin was this morning. That is the reason why I came late to the press conference. And we had the opportunity to discuss the Black Sea Grain Initiative and its extension and expansion, possible expansion.”
He added: “We discussed Zaporizhzhia, and we discussed all the other aspects that are relevant in the present situation. And I usually do not say what I say in phone calls. My positions are known.”
He was asked what he knew of the situation at Zaporozhye. “According to the informations I have,” Guterres replied, “electricity is being provided to the reactors for guaranteeing the cooling of those reactors, and other areas that also need the electricity supply are having it. And we hope that it will be able to maintain it, both with generators and through the grid. The IAEA remains on the site, and the information we have are also that, until now, there was no radiation measured that is worrying. I believe that we have been now three days without bombing. I hope that these kinds of attacks will cease, and I hope that the security of the nuclear power plant will be maintained entirely at all costs and fully respected by the parties.”
A reporter then asked: “We heard that there are some talks going on between the IAEA chief, Mr. Grossi, and the Ukrainians and the Russians. Is that what you believe has led to the end of shelling for the past three days? Are these talks something the UN is encouraging, involved in, in other ways?” Guterres replied: “Those talks are taking place, and I hope they will contribute to quiet things down. I cannot establish a cause-and-effect, but I believe that the IAEA presence is a very important deterrent and that their contacts are a very important deterrent in relation to any kind of attack against the power plant.”
Later in the press conference Guterres was asked a question about the IAEA’s role in the nuclear negotiations with Iran. He replied: “I think the IAEA is a very important pillar, and I believe that its independence that exists and must be preserved is essential. The IAEA cannot be the instrument of parties against other parties. And I do believe the IAEA is doing its role based on the technical aspects in which the IAEA is supposed to have the knowledge and the capacity to do.”
Russian sources express scepticism that when Guterres said this, he did not already know that IAEA resolution Number 58 would become “the instrument of parties against other parties” — exactly what Guterres told the press the IAEA should not do.