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IAEA wants ‘permanent presence’ at Russia-held nuclear plant

2. IAEA Ukraine
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi (right) talks to Ukainian Minister of Energy German Galushchenko (left) after the arrival of the IAEA inspection mission to Zaporizhzhia, on August 31, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine — UN inspectors said Wednesday they would seek to establish a permanent presence at a Russian-held plant in southern Ukraine to avoid “a nuclear accident” at the facility on the frontline of the fighting.اضافة اعلان

The 14-strong team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to arrive at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant on Thursday which lies inside Russian-held territory.

“My mission is ... to prevent a nuclear accident and preserve the largest nuclear power plant in Europe,” IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi told reporters after travelling from Kyiv to the city of Zaporizhzhia.

“We are preparing for the real work which begins tomorrow,” he said. “We are going to try to establish a permanent presence for the agency.”

Fresh shelling struck the town next to Europe’s largest atomic facility on Wednesday, with the fate of the plant on the banks of the Dnipro River stoking global concern.

“The Russian army is shelling Energodar,” local military official Evhen Yevtushenko said on Wednesday morning, of the town next to the plant which had a pre-war population of 50,000 people.

Both sides have repeatedly traded blame over attacks in the area.

‘Explicit safety guarantees’

Although Zaporizhzhia is normally about a two-hour drive from the plant, it was not immediately clear how the IAEA team would reach the site which would involve crossing the frontline to enter Russian-held areas.

But Grossi said his team had received “explicit” safety guarantees from both sides for their visit which would last “a few days”.

“These are very complex operations,” he said.

“We are going into a war zone, we’re going to occupied territory, and this requires explicit guarantees not only from the Russian Federation but also from the Republic of Ukraine and we have been able to secure that.”

The plant has been occupied by Russian troops since March and Ukraine has accused Russia of deploying hundreds of soldiers and storing ammunition there.

Kyiv has insisted the team access the plant via Ukrainian-held territory.

“Sadly, Russia is not stopping its provocations precisely in the direction the mission needs to travel to reach the plant,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Tuesday after meeting Grossi.

The situation was “extremely menacing”, he said, accusing the Russians of “continuing bombardments” and calling for “an immediate and total demilitarization” of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

In Moscow, the Russian defense ministry accused Kyiv of “continued provocations aimed at disrupting the work of the IAEA mission” saying it had shelled the area around the plant on Tuesday hitting a building containing “the solid radioactive waste processing complex”.

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