President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, in his first public remarks about the battles raging in the vicinity of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, accused the Ukrainian military on Friday of risking a “large-scale catastrophe” by shelling the plant.
The remarks, paraphrased by the Kremlin presidential website, came during a telephone call initiated by President Emmanuel Macron of France. The two presidents agreed to work toward organizing a visit by a delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, to the facility, the Kremlin said.
Tensions ratcheted up around the plant over the summer, with both sides accusing each other of risking a nuclear disaster by targeting the facility. Ukraine has described Russia as using the nuclear power plant — the largest in Europe — for blackmail, risking a calamity by stationing troops at the power plant who shell Ukrainian positions across the Dnipro River.
Mr. Putin, echoing the position stated repeatedly by senior Russian officials in recent days, blamed Ukraine for the shelling at the plant, saying it “creates the danger of a large-scale catastrophe that could lead to radiation contamination of vast territories.”
Mr. Putin and Mr. Macron also spoke about the nuclear power plant back in March. At that time, Mr. Putin expressed concern that saboteurs might target the plant. Russian forces have occupied the region around the plant since the early weeks of the war, but Ukraine has been slowly eating away at the territory seized by Russia.
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