France’s Macron urges Putin to withdraw Russian troops from besieged nuclear power plant

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French President Emmanuel Macron, one of the few Western leaders to have had an open dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin since the invasion of Ukraine, urged the Kremlin in a phone call on Sunday to withdraw troops from the besieged nuclear power plant. from Zaporizhia.

Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the shelling of the plant, which the UN nuclear watchdog has warned could have “very, very catastrophic” consequences.

Macron sided with Kiev in his talk with Putin, according to a readout from the Elysee Palace.

“[Macron] recalled that the Russian occupation was the cause of the risks that today weigh on the integrity of the Zaporizhzhya power plant,” the French president told Putin. “He asked the Russian troops to withdraw their heavy and light weapons and follow the recommendations of followed the IAEA to ensure site security.”

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Meanwhile, Putin accused Ukraine of endangering the factory.

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

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Russian troops took over the factory in the early days of the war, but it is still managed by Ukrainian staff.

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The International Atomic Energy Agency visited the factory, the largest in Europe, last week and called for a safety zone to be established to protect it.

β€œThe physical attack, intentional or unintentional – the hits this facility has received and which I have personally been able to witness and assess with my experts – is simply unacceptable,” said IAEA Director Rafael Grossi.

The IAEA said on Sunday that a backup power line to the plant has been restored, allowing external electricity to be left in the facility for reactor cooling and other operations.

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Energoatom, Ukraine’s state nuclear agency, said it had to halt operations at the plant on Sunday as a security measure.

Macron, who pledged to continue talks with Russia earlier this month, also condemned Putin’s invasion on Sunday.

“[Macron] condemned the continuation of Russian military operations in Ukraine and recalled its demand that it be stopped as soon as possible, that negotiations begin and that Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity be restored,” read the reading of his appeal to Putin.

Reuters contributed to this report.