An International Atomic Energy Agency mission is heading to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant near the front line of the war

  • UN watchdog agency to visit Ukraine reactor complex this week
  • IAEA chief Grossi heads the mission
  • Eight civilians killed in Russian strikes in Donetsk

Kyiv (Reuters) – A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency headed to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant on Monday, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said, as Russia and Ukraine accused each other of bombing in its vicinity, raising fears of a radiological disaster.

Zaporizhia, which was occupied by Russian forces in March but is run by Ukrainian staff, has been a flashpoint in a conflict that has settled into a war of attrition fought mainly in eastern and southern Ukraine six months after Russia launched its invasion.

“We must protect the safety and security of the largest nuclear facility in Ukraine and Europe,” Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in a Twitter post. Read more

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Grossi said a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency he was leading would arrive at the station on the Dnipro River near the front lines in southern Ukraine later this week, without specifying their expected arrival day.

The International Atomic Energy Agency separately tweeted that the mission will assess the physical damage, assess the conditions in which personnel work at the plant and “define the functions of the safety and security systems.” It will also “carry out urgent safeguards activities,” referring to the tracing of nuclear materials.

The United Nations and Ukraine have called for the withdrawal of military equipment and personnel from the nuclear complex, the largest in Europe, to ensure it is not a target. Read more

A few days ago, the two sides exchanged accusations of a catastrophe with their attacks.

As fears of a nuclear accident grow in a country still haunted by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, Zaporizhia authorities are distributing iodine tablets and teaching residents how to use them in the event of a radioactive leak.

‘blackmail’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff said late Sunday on his Telegram channel that Russian forces had fired on Enerhodar, the city where the station is located, along with a video of firefighters pouring into burning cars.

“They provoke the world and are trying to blackmail it,” Andrei Yermak said.

The Ukrainian army earlier reported bombing nine other towns on the other side of the Dnipro River.

The Russian Defense Ministry reported further Ukrainian shelling of the factory over the weekend. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that nine shells fired by Ukrainian artillery fell on the factory grounds.

“Currently, full-time technical personnel monitor the technical condition of the nuclear plant and ensure its operation. The radiological situation in the nuclear power plant area remains normal,” he said in a statement.

The official Russian news agency quoted the authorities as saying that they had shot down a Ukrainian drone that was planning to attack the nuclear waste storage facility at the plant.

And power was cut off from two reactors at the plant last week due to the bombing. Read more

Ukrainian state nuclear energy company Energoatum said it had no new information about the attacks on the plant and Reuters was unable to verify the accounts.

On Sunday, the US State Department said that Russia did not want to recognize the dangerous radiological danger at the plant, and had blocked a draft agreement on non-proliferation because it indicated such a danger. Read more

respond to attacks

In eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region, Russian forces bombed military and civilian infrastructure near Bakhmut, Shumy, Yakovlevka, Zaitsevo and Kudima, the Ukrainian military said early Monday.

Donetsk region’s governor, Pavlo Kirilenko, said that Russian strikes killed eight civilians in Donetsk region on Sunday.

Russia denies targeting civilians.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed, in a video address late Sunday night, that “the occupiers will feel their consequences – in the further actions of our defenders.”

“No terrorist will be left without a response to the attacks on our cities. Zaporizhzhya, Orikhiv, Kharkiv and Donbass – they will receive a response to each of them,” he added.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what it described as a “special military operation” to disarm its southern neighbor. Ukraine, which gained its independence when the Russian-dominated Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, has been dismissed by its Western allies as an unfounded excuse to launch a war of invasion.

The invasion of Ukraine triggered the most destructive conflict in Europe since World War II.

Thousands were killed, millions were displaced and cities were reduced to rubble. The war also threatened the global economy with an energy and food supply crisis.

The region’s governor said the Russian bombing had displaced more civilians in the east, with three-quarters of the population fleeing the frontline Donetsk province, which includes part of the wider Donbass region.

The United States and its allies imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia for its invasion and sent billions of dollars in security aid to the Ukrainian government.

Russia has said that sanctions will not make it change its position and that Western arms supplies will prolong the conflict.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is traveling to Sweden and the Czech Republic this week and is pushing for more sanctions against Russia, including an EU-wide visa ban for Russians.

A meeting of EU foreign ministers this week is unlikely to unanimously support a visa ban on all Russians, the EU foreign policy chief told Austrian ORF TV. Read more

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Reporting by Max Hunder and Pavel Polyuk in the Kyiv and Reuters offices; Writing by Himani Sarkar and Gareth Jones; Editing by Robert Persell and Mark Heinrich

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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