The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency said he hopes to reach an agreement with Russia and Ukraine on protecting the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant by year's end.
In an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica published on Friday, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, Rafael Grossi, said, "My commitment is to reach a solution as soon as possible. I hope by the end of the year."
"I know that [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin is following the process, and I do not rule out another meeting with him soon, as well as with Ukrainian President [Volodymyr] Zelensky."
Grossi has been trying to get Ukraine and Russia to agree to a format for a demilitarized zone around the plant, which has been damaged by various forms of weapons fire several times.
"There is a concrete proposal on securing Zaporizhzhia and important progress has been made. ...The two sides now agree on some basic principles. The first is that of protection: it means accepting that you don't shoot 'on' the plant and 'from' the plant. The second is the recognition that the IAEA is the only possible way forward: that was the heart of my meeting with President Putin in St. Petersburg on October 11," he told La Repubblica.
"Russia is not against an agreement and the principle of protecting the plant," Grossi added.
As for the Ukrainian side, Grossi said, "The withdrawal of armaments from the plant is what, understandably from their point of view, the Ukrainians are demanding. And it would still be part of the overall agreement."
"Our goal is to avoid a nuclear accident, not to provoke a situation militarily favorable to one or the other," he continued.
Regarding the current status of the plant, Grossi said that "right now the plant has electricity to ensure the operation of cooling and emergency systems," but "some nodes of the electricity grid that supply it are being attacked periodically, with surgically precise strikes."
Asked who was responsible for those strikes, Grossi said, "It is not my job to assign responsibility. For me the important thing is to avoid a nuclear accident and reach the agreement, not to be a judge."
He also spoke about three other nuclear plants in Ukraine: Rivne, South Ukraine and Khmelnytskyi.
"A few days ago, they too lost external power supply. And the Ukrainian authorities have made a formal application to have a permanent IAEA presence at these plants as well, as in Zaporizhzhia. In this way the agency's staff will be stationed throughout Ukraine and will be vigilant that the nuclear power plants are not used by anyone as weapons of blackmail in the conflict," Grossi said.