Remarks at the UN Security Council Briefing on the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant

Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 23, 2022


Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for your briefing, Under Secretary-General DiCarlo. We commend the Secretary-General for his recent visit to Ukraine, and we greatly appreciate the UN’s continued efforts to address the increasingly dangerous situation at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant.

Colleagues, the issue at hand today is not some abstract political debate. And this is not some far-off problem. As we speak, Ukraine, neighboring states, the entire international community are living under the threat of a nuclear catastrophe. And people are, understandably, terrified.

People like Tamara Korolkova, a 70-year-old grandmother who can see the plant from her apartment building. She has nightmares about the plant blowing up. As she told a reporter for National Public Radio, “All of us are just scared all the time.”

And for what? Why on Earth is a nuclear facility being used as a staging ground for war by Russian forces?

These questions can only be answered by President Putin and could have been answered by members of the Russian delegation who sit here today. Only they can explain why Russia thinks it can re-draw international borders by force in contravention of the UN Charter. Only they can account for the atrocities they have out carried against the Ukrainian people. Bombings of schools and hospitals. The killing of aid workers and journalists. Execution-style murders. And the forced deportations of Ukrainian civilians through so-called “filtration” operations. And only they can explain why their troops recklessly attacked and seized control of this plant – pushing us to the brink of nuclear disaster.

I will recall again Ukraine’s impeccable record of nuclear energy safety and security prior to Russia’s seizure of this facility.

But we didn’t hear answers from the Russian delegation. What we heard were references to a hodgepodge of websites and tweets. And of course, that’s a double-edged sword. As I would remind the Russian delegation, it was the Russian ambassador in Vienna who just a few days ago tweeted, “No mercy for the Ukrainian people.”

Nevertheless, a nuclear disaster at the plant is avoidable. Russia created this risk – and only Russia can diffuse it. The solution is not complicated. Russia must end its unprovoked, unjustified war and withdraw its troops. And given the urgency of the situation, Russia must immediately follow the recommendation of Secretary-General Guterres and establish a demilitarized zone in the areas surrounding the plant.

This would allow for the Ukrainian personnel – who are currently being held under duress – to operate the facility, complete a damage assessment, and restore the facility’s impeccable safety, security, and safeguards performance. And a demilitarized zone would enable the IAEA team to travel to the facility, conduct an inspection, and assess the safety, security, and application of safeguards to ongoing nuclear plant operations.

We also call on Russia to agree to an IAEA visit to the facility in a way that will respect Ukrainian sovereignty. And we echo the words of the Secretary-General that the electricity from Zaporizhzhya is Ukrainian electricity, and that this principle must be fully respected.

Finally, let me close by reminding my Russian colleagues that as we approach Ukraine’s Independence Day, the world is watching. This should not need saying, but please do not bomb schools, hospitals, orphanages, or homes. We will continue to pursue accountability for any and all violations of international law.

And today, on the eve of the six-month anniversary of Russia’s invasion, we reiterate the message that we have shared with the Russian delegation throughout their war of choice: End the suffering. End the bloodshed. End this war.

Thank you, Mr. President.