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President Biden on Sunday met with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz to discuss Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, held by Russian forces since March.
The White House said the leaders agreed to avoid military operations near the plant and that it was imperative International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visit as soon as possible “to ascertain the state of safety systems.”
The leaders also discussed ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program and the need to support their partners in the Middle East as a bulwark against Iran’s “destabilizing regional activities.”
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility in Ukraine’s south has been controlled by Russian forces since shortly after the invasion began on Feb. 24. Ukraine has accused Russia of storing troops and weapons at the plant and using its grounds to launch strikes against Ukrainian-controlled territory.
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Ukrainian officials and military analysts, meanwhile, say Moscow’s forces have cynically employed the plant as a shield, knowing that the Ukrainians would be hesitant to fire back. Russia has denied the accusations and, in turn, accused Ukrainian forces of repeatedly shelling the plant.
The French presidency said in a statement that Macron, in a recent conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, “underlined his concerns” regarding the situation at the Zaporizhzhia plant and expressed his support for the deployment of an IAEA mission to the site “as soon as possible.”
Putin has agreed to an IAEA mission under certain terms discussed with Macron. The Kremlin said that “the Russian side reaffirmed its readiness to offer the necessary assistance to the agency’s experts.”
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Yevgeny Balitsky, the Moscow-backed chief of temporary administration for the Russia-controlled part of the Zaporizhzhia region, said Friday that an IAEA mission could approach the plant from Ukrainian-held territory, a shift in Moscow’s position which previously had suggested that the mission should travel to the plant from Crimea.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.