Russia blocks UN agreement on nuclear disarmament over criticism of Zaporizhia seizure | International
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Despite the fact that the risk of a war with weapons of mass destruction is on the lips of many these days, the international community failed to reach a minimum agreement on Friday at the tenth review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Russia rejected the pact because several of its points criticized the military occupation of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, which Moscow called “issues of an open political nature.” The next meeting is scheduled for 2026, four years after the war broke out over the territory that has the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, Zaporizhia.
“Despite the intensity of the consultations, the conference was unable to reach an agreement on the substantive part of the draft of the final document,” announced its current president, the Argentine Gustavo Zlauvinen, at the closing of the meeting.
A week ago, the Russian Ministry of Defense published a map showing that the destruction of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, taken over by its troops, could contaminate not only Ukraine, but also other European countries such as Moldova, Romania, Poland and Germany.
In fact, the president of Ukraine, Volodímir Zelenski, has insisted on Friday in his request to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), dependent on the UN, to send its experts “as soon as possible” to the plant, whose The situation remains “very dangerous.” The IAEA mission will arrive next week and will be headed by its director, the Argentine Rafael Grossi, according to the newspaper. New York Times. Among its members there will be neither English nor Americans.
In this context, the draft of the final protocol of the NPT included the “serious concern about military activities” near the nuclear facilities and stressed “the paramount importance of guaranteeing their control by the competent authorities of Ukraine”. For its publication, the signatures of the 191 countries that are part of the treaty, in force since 1970 and extended indefinitely in 1995, were needed. However, there was no consensus despite the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been insisting for weeks that the situation around Zaporizhia is out of control.
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The plant, the largest of its kind in Europe, had to be disconnected on Thursday after a fire that affected the power line that feeds it and for which Russians and Ukrainians blame each other. This Friday it was reconnected, but Zelensky has said that the presence of Russian soldiers in the facilities increases the risk of incidents. This Saturday, the Ukrainian company that manages the plant and the Russian Ministry of Defense have also crossed accusations about new attacks; the ukrainian side has stated that there has been damage involving “risk of hydrogen leakage and spraying of radioactive substances”.
Earlier this week, the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, announced that she would seek a deal that noted that “Russia’s war and its irresponsible actions in Ukraine seriously undermine the core purpose of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.” . A few words that for the Kremlin’s permanent representative to the UN, Vasili Nebenzia, show how Washington “puts its geopolitical interests above collective needs to strengthen global security.” For his part, the deputy director of the department for non-proliferation and arms control of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Igor Vishnevetski, affirmed on Friday that in order to obtain Moscow’s support for the draft “it was important to ensure a balance when taking into account the positions of the states”.
The Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, expressed his disappointment at the failure of the meeting, which, like the previous one, held in 2015, has not come to fruition. On that occasion it was due to the disagreement to end weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. This time, to the use of civilian nuclear power plants as a threat. “The Secretary-General regrets that the conference was unable to address the pressing challenges ahead, which threaten our collective security,” he said in a statement. “The increased risk of nuclear weapons being used, by accident or miscalculation, demands urgent and determined action,” he added.
Anti-nuclear weapons activist groups have also expressed their discontent. “Faced with an unacceptably dangerous global situation, the NPT review conference achieved nothing,” summed up Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
The Zaporizhia plant was taken by Russian troops at the beginning of the war and has received several attacks in its vicinity, of which Moscow and kyiv accuse each other. The shelling has intensified in the last month and has affected some auxiliary support systems. On the 25th, its connection to the Ukrainian power grid was interrupted for the first time in its history. According to the military administration imposed in the area by the Kremlin, it was “physically impossible” to restore electricity through a break. However, a day later a first block was reconnected, and this Saturday the Energoatom company announced the reactivation of another second one.
On the other hand, the information that arrives from the nuclear power plant is contradictory. The Russian Defense Ministry denied on the 18th that it had deployed military vehicles at the plant. However, days later, on the 24th, the Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia) announced the arrest of two workers at those facilities because “they transmitted information to nationalists about the location of military personnel and vehicles in the territory of the nuclear power plant.” Added to this announcement was the arrest of a third civilian who would have illegally entered there and “provided the Ukrainian Armed Forces with information on the movement of Russian military convoys.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on the 19th to allow an international mission to inspect the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. The president had a telephone conversation that day with the French leader, Emmanuel Macron, and, according to the Elysee, gave his blessing that the inspectors’ visit would be supervised by Ukraine. This has not happened yet, although Macron announced on Friday that France had received guarantees from both parties. “Civil power should not be a military tool,” he stressed.
Early in the Russian offensive, another Ukrainian nuclear power plant also sparked concern from the international community. In March, the government of Volodymyr Zelensky warned that the Chernobyl plant, infamous for the 1986 accident, was in danger of power cuts after its occupation by Russian forces. Subsequently, with the Russians withdrawing from the kyiv front, Ukrainian forces regained control in early April.
An agreement for global nuclear security
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty entered into force on March 5, 1970. A quarter of a century later, on May 11, 1995, it was extended indefinitely. There are 191 member states, which makes it the most signed agreement in the field of nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament and the peaceful use of this energy. The countries that do not have atomic weapons undertake in the treaty not to manufacture or acquire them. For their part, nations with radioactive weapons “will not help, encourage or induce” other countries to have them in their arsenal. There are five nuclear weapon states that are parties to the Treaty: the US, France, the UK, Russia and China.
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