Macron urges Putin to withdraw Russian forces from besieged nuclear plant

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French President Emmanuel Macron, one of the few Western leaders who has maintained 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 Zaporizhia nuclear power plant.

Russia and Ukraine traded blame for the bombing of the plant, which the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency warned could have “extremely catastrophic” consequences.

Macron stood by Kyiv in his call with Putin, according to a reading from the Elysee Palace.

“[Macron] He pointed out that the Russian occupation was the cause of the dangers that burden the safety of the Zaporizhzhya power plant today. Follow up to ensure the safety of the site.”

French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold a press conference after a summit on Ukraine at the Elysee Palace in Paris, December 9, 2019.
(Ludovic Marin/Paul via Reuters/File Photo)

Meanwhile, Putin blamed Ukraine for endangering the plant.

“The Russian side drew attention to the systematic Ukrainian attacks on plant facilities, including the storage of radioactive waste, which is fraught with serious consequences,” a Kremlin statement read.

Russian forces retreat as Ukrainian soldiers return to their main areas of Kharkiv

Russian forces took control of the plant in the early days of the war but it is still operated by a Ukrainian crew.

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

“Physical attack, intentional or unintentional – blows to this facility that I can personally see and assess with my experts – is simply unacceptable,” said Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

On Sunday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said a backup power line had been restored to the plant, allowing external electricity to enter the facility to cool the reactor and other operations.

Ukraine’s nuclear energy agency, Energoatom, said it was forced to halt operations at the plant on Sunday as a precaution.

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Macron, who vowed to keep talking to Russia earlier this month, also denounced Putin’s invasion on Sunday.

“[Macron] He condemned the continuation of Russian military operations in Ukraine and recalled his demand to stop them as soon as possible, start negotiations and restore Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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