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Macron urges securing nuclear plants in call with Putin

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron called on his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to ensure Ukrainian nuclear plants are secured amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a senior French official said Sunday.

“It is necessary that we obtain commitments … under the International Atomic Energy Agency’s auspices to ensure the safety of these plants and that they are excluded from the conflict,” the official from the Elysée Palace told reporters after Macron and Putin spoke for an hour and 45 minutes.

The official said Putin told Macron it was “not in his intention to carry out attacks on these plants” and that “he was ready to comply with IAEA standards.”

In a statement, the Kremlin confirmed it would agree to trilateral talks between the IAEA, Russia and Ukraine to agree on measures to secure Ukrainian nuclear facilities, as long as the meeting is either held via videoconference or in a third country.

The call between Macron and Putin comes only days after Russia’s attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe. Ukraine has the seventh-largest installed nuclear capacity in the world and the second in Europe, after France.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said this week that the “ongoing military conflict taking place in a country that has a vast nuclear program” had put the organization on high alert. He is expected to give a press conference Monday.

The Elysée Palace is hoping the agency will “make proposals on the security of nuclear facilities in Ukraine.”

During his call with Macron, Putin reiterated his goals in Ukraine, showing no change in tone, the official also told reporters. “Putin said that he is determined to achieve all his objectives by negotiation or war. This is a serious time,” the official said.

On Saturday, the Russian president said the sanctions imposed against Russia since its invasion of Ukraine were “akin to a declaration of war” and warned that Ukraine’s statehood is at stake.

Earlier Saturday, Ukraine and Russia announced that citizens in the besieged city of Mariupol would temporarily be allowed to evacuate through a humanitarian corridor, but within hours, the city of Mariupol said that Russian forces were violating the agreement.

Macron told Putin that international humanitarian law needed to be respected, civilians protected and humanitarian access allowed, according to the Elysée. The Russian president replied that his army is not targeting civilians or civilian facilities and that it’s up to the Ukrainians to let civilians go or not.

The Elysée official was lukewarm about reports that the U.S. is working with Poland on plans to supply Ukraine with Russian-made fighter jets. “The objectives must remain the same: to increase the costs of the war for Putin while recalling that we are not at war with Russia,” the official said, urging “some caution on those issues.”

“Things need to be done in order, and in the right one,” the official added. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Macron will talk Tuesday evening.

Macron is expected to speak later Sunday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who traveled to Russia over the weekend to speak with Putin.

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