Russia on Thursday said it hopes representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will soon be able to visit Zaporizhzhia to defuse the crisis at the nuclear power plant.

An IAEA visit has been in the works since June and would have already taken place if it were not for the UN chief’s interference, Ivan Nechayev, deputy spokesman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, said at a news briefing in Moscow.

On the possibility of establishing a demilitarized zone around the plant, he said it was “not an option at this stage” because Ukraine could “attempt provocations and attacks” to pin the blame on Russia.

Nechayev accused Ukrainian forces of carrying out several strikes on the plant, Europe’s largest nuclear facility of its kind, in recent days.

“As a result of Kyiv’s actions, not only residents of Ukraine, but also of many other European countries, may become victims. In order to prevent a nuclear catastrophe, it is necessary to force Ukrainian units to stop their attacks,” he stressed.

Nechayev called out the West for its “criminal connivance,” saying Ukraine has been carrying out strikes on the nuclear plant with NATO weapons.

This, he added, was confirmed by the fragments of NATO-caliber ammunition found near the nuclear facility.

In a separate statement, the Russian Defense Ministry also said it has evidence that Ukrainian forces are planning “provocations” at the nuclear power plant.

Use of nuclear arsenal only possible for self-defense

Nechayev urged the US and NATO to stop talking about the possibility of nuclear strikes.

“Russia is committed to the principle that there can be no winners in a nuclear war and it should never be unleashed,” he said.

“Russia’s use of its nuclear arsenal is only possible in response to an attack, in self-defense in emergency circumstances,” he asserted.

Regarding the deadly July 29 attack that killed over 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war at a prison in Olenivka, he said Moscow wants a UN and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) mission to visit the facility for an investigation.

Kyiv, backed by its supporters including the US, has accused Russia of blowing up the facility to cover up evidence of alleged war crimes.

Moscow maintains that the attack was carried out by a missile launched from US-supplied long-range High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), a charge denied by Ukraine.

Nechayev also called on the ICRC to take steps for the release of over 60 Russian sailors illegally detained for about six months on merchant ships in Izmail in Odesa.

EU visa ban for Russians

Nechayev said it was possible that the EU could implement a discriminatory measure like banning tourist visas for Russians.

“If this happens, Moscow will retaliate,” he warned.

He advised Russian citizens against travelling to Europe by car, pointing to a rising number of attacks on vehicles with Russian license plates.

“Citizens currently planning a trip to one of the unfriendly countries … should be clearly aware of the difficulties they may face,” he said.

Taiwan is China’s internal matter

Nechayev also criticized recent visits by US lawmakers to Taiwan, terming it “a clumsy provocation aimed at China’s containment.”

“Taiwan is China’s internal matter,” he said, adding that Russia maintains its “position about the one-China principle” and views “the government of the People’s Republic of China as the only legitimate government representing the whole of China”

“Taiwan is an integral part of China. The Chinese side has every reason to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the Taiwan Strait,” he said.

A furious Beijing, which views Taiwan as a “breakaway province,” launched massive military drills around the self-ruled island after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei earlier this month.

Apart from its show of military might around Taiwan, Beijing sanctioned Pelosi, downgraded military dialogue with the US and suspended cooperation on climate change issues, along with six other countermeasures.

However, this past Sunday, 12 days after Pelosi’s trip, another delegation of US lawmakers landed in Taipei for talks with top officials, including President Tsai Ing-wen.

Amid soaring tensions, the US announced on Wednesday that it has agreed to launch formal negotiations on a bilateral trade framework with Taiwan “early this fall,” drawing another strong rebuke from Beijing.

Afghan delegation in Russia

Nechayev said an Afghan delegation has been in Russia since Aug. 15 as part of efforts to bolster cooperation with Moscow.

The delegation, led by acting Trade Minister Nooruddin Azizi, is currently in Tatarstan’s capital Kazan for meetings with officials and businesspeople, he said.

“We believe that this visit will further strengthen Russia’s practical cooperation with Afghanistan, as well as stabilize the socioeconomic situation in Afghanistan,” Nechayev said.

The Afghan delegation earlier held talks about “supply of agricultural products and fuel to Afghanistan” with officials of Russia’s agriculture and energy ministries.