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Zaporizhia: IAEA chief ‘saw what he needed to see’ during inspection

Zaporizhia: IAEA chief ‘saw what he needed to see’ during inspection

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said he “saw what he needed to see” during an inspection today of Ukraine’s Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, which has been regularly bombed for weeks.

“We were able, in a few hours, to gather a lot of information. I saw the main things that I needed to see,” Rafael Grossi told Russian media who accompanied the delegation of IAEA experts to this plant seized by Russian forces in the south Ukraine.

The International Atomic Energy Agency “remains” at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, its head announced.

Rafael Grossi said that members of the international organization will remain at the nuclear plant. “The IAEA remains here. Let the world know that the IAEA is staying in Zaporizhia,” Grossi said after an inspection of the nuclear plant by experts from the UN atomic energy agency, according to a video published by Russian media outlet Ria-Novosti. However, he did not specify how many members of the mission will remain there, nor for how long.

Earlier, a Reuters reporter on the scene reported that some members of the inspection team were seen leaving the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant after spending several hours at the facility.

Four of the nine vehicles of the IAEA delegation left the factory grounds, according to the Russian Interfax news agency.

Hours delayed due to bombing

A team of UN experts arrived at Ukraine’s Zaporizhia nuclear power plant complex today to assess the risk of a radioactive leak after being delayed for several hours by shelling near the site.

Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of trying to undermine the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) mission at the station in south-central Ukraine, which is under the control of Russian forces but operated by its Ukrainian staff.

Conditions at the nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, have worsened in recent weeks with Moscow and Kyiv accusing each other of bombing the site and raising fears of a Chernobyl-style nuclear disaster.

A Reuters reporter saw the IAEA team arrive in a large convoy with a heavy presence of Russian soldiers nearby. A Ukrainian source with knowledge of the situation told Reuters the mission “may turn out to be shorter than planned.”

Earlier, Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom said Russian shelling had shut down one of the plant’s only two operating reactors, while Moscow said it had foiled a Ukrainian attempt to seize the plant.

A Reuters reporter in the nearby Russian-held town of Enerhodar said a residential building was hit by the shelling, forcing residents to seek shelter in a basement. It was not possible to determine who was responsible for the shooting.

The Russian-appointed governor of the Zaporizhia region, Yevgeny Balitsky, said at least three people were killed and five wounded in what he said was Ukrainian shelling of Enerhodar that also destroyed three kindergartens and the House of Culture. There was a power outage in the city in the morning, he said.

The IAEA inspectors, wearing body armor and traveling in white, armored jeeps with UN insignia, were stopped at the first checkpoint outside Zaporizhia after reports of shelling.

Moscow accused Kyiv of trying to seize the station hours before the IAEA team was expected to arrive.

The Russian Defense Ministry said up to 60 Ukrainian soldiers crossed the Dnieper River, which separates territory held by the two sides, in boats at 6:00 a.m. local time (and Greek time), in a “provocation”, as he described it, with the aim of disrupting the IAEA visit.

The ministry said “measures were taken” to neutralize opposing troops, including the use of military aircraft.

A local official appointed by the Russians, Vladimir Rogov, later said that “about 40” of the 60 Ukrainian soldiers were killed. Russian soldiers also captured three Ukrainian soldiers during the attack on the station, he added.

Reuters reporters who followed the convoy before being ordered to turn back because of dangerous conditions said that while in the city of Zaporizhia overnight, they saw flashes of explosions in the sky.

They could not verify who was responsible.

Officials appointed by the Russians have hinted that the IAEA team would have only one day to inspect the plant, while the mission had been prepared for longer.

“If we can establish a permanent or continuous presence, then it will be extended. But this first part will take a few days,” the agency’s head, Rafael Grossi, had said.

Slow progress

Both sides have claimed battlefield successes amid a Ukrainian offensive to retake territory in the south.

“It’s a very slow process because we value people,” said Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to Zelensky, referring to the Ukrainian attack.

Moscow denied reports of a Ukrainian advance and said its troops had driven out Ukrainian forces.

Ukraine’s southern military command said it would not for the time being report the settlements in the south it recaptured to prevent Russian strikes against them.

It also said that its counterattack does not affect the corridor to the Black Sea that has been created for the export of Ukrainian grain.

With information: AMPE

Source: Capital