- IAEA team departs from Kyiv for nuclear plant
- The inspection mission is expected to begin on Thursday
- It is unclear how long the inspectors will be able to stay
- Ukraine claims successes in the military counterattack
- Russia halts gas flow through major pipeline
Kyiv (Reuters) – United Nations nuclear inspectors set out for Ukraine’s Zaporizhia nuclear plant on Wednesday, saying their job was to prevent a nuclear accident and try to stabilize the situation after weeks of close bombing.
A Reuters reporter following the IAEA team in a convoy from the capital, Kyiv, said the inspectors had arrived in the nearby city of Zaporizhia, where they were likely to spend the night before visiting the plant, which is in an area it controls. Russia, Thursday.
Russian officials in the area near the power plant indicated that the visit could last for only one day, while officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency and Ukraine indicated that it would last longer.
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“The task will take a few days. If we can establish a permanent presence or a continuous presence, it will be prolonged. But this first part will take a few days,” Grossi told reporters at a hotel. In Zaporizhzhia.
“We have a very important task there – to assess the real situation there, and to help stabilize the situation as much as we can,” he said, adding that the IAEA team had guarantees from both Russia and Ukraine that it could enter the war. region.
Russia seized the plant, the largest in Europe, in early March as part of what Moscow calls its “special military operation,” something Kyiv and the West have described as an unprovoked invasion aimed at seizing territory and erasing Ukrainian identity.
There has been a Russian military force in the plant ever since, as have most of the Ukrainian workforce who have had to continue running the facility, which has traditionally supplied Ukraine with 20 percent of its electricity.
Fighting was reported near and outside the power plant, with both Kyiv and Moscow claiming battlefield successes as Ukraine launched a counterattack to retake territory in the south. Reuters was not able to independently verify such reports. Read more
Away from Ukraine, Russia has halted gas supplies through its largest pipeline to its biggest customer Germany, raising the prospect of recession and energy rationing in some of Europe’s richest countries as winter approaches. Read more
For weeks now, Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of jeopardizing the plant’s safety with artillery or drone strikes and risking a Chernobyl-style radiological disaster.
Kyiv says Russia is using the plant as a shield to strike towns and cities, knowing that it would be difficult for Ukraine to return fire. It also accused Russian forces of bombing the factory.
“The risk of a radiological catastrophe due to Russian actions does not decrease for an hour,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Tuesday.
The Russian Defense Ministry said radiation levels at the station were normal.
Russia denied Ukrainian allegations of its reckless behavior, and questioned the reason for its bombing of a facility where its forces are deployed as what it describes as security details.
Moscow accused the Ukrainians of bombing the station in an attempt to provoke international outrage which Kyiv hopes will lead to a demilitarized zone.
Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushenko said the IAEA inspection was a step towards “dismantling and demilitarizing the site”. Russia has said it has no plans to withdraw its forces for the time being. Read more
Asked about plans to create a demilitarized zone at the factory, Grossi said that this was a matter of political will involving the countries involved in the conflict.
“But my mission – I think it is very important to establish (this) very clearly – my mission is a technical mission. It is a mission that seeks to prevent a nuclear accident. And to preserve (the nuclear power plant) mission,” he said.
Questions and doubts
Grossi said one of his priorities is to talk to the Ukrainian technicians who run the plant.
“This is one of the most important things I want to do and will do,” he said.
It was not immediately clear how long the inspectors would be able to stay at the power plant.
Russia said it welcomed the stated intention of the International Atomic Energy Agency to establish a permanent mission at the station.
But Yevgeny Palitsky, head of the Russian administration in the region, told Interfax news agency that the agency’s inspectors “should see the work of the station in one day.”
The United States urged a complete shutdown of the plant and called for a demilitarized zone around it.
Interfax news agency quoted a Russian-appointed local official as saying on Wednesday that two of the plant’s six reactors were operating.
The factory is close to the front lines and the Ukrainian armed forces accused Russia on Wednesday of bombing a demarcation line in the area and preparing to resume the offensive there.
There was no immediate comment from Moscow.
In his late-night speech, Zelensky said Ukrainian forces were attacking Russian positions in Ukraine along the entire front line after Kyiv announced on Monday that it had launched an offensive to try to retake the south. Zelensky said his forces were also launching an offensive in the east.
Russia captured swathes of southern Ukraine near the Black Sea coast in the first weeks of the six-month-old war, including the Kherson region, which lies north of Russia-annexed Crimea.
Ukraine sees regaining control of the region as crucial to preventing Russian attempts to seize more territory in the West that might eventually cut off its access to the Black Sea.
The Russian Defense Ministry denied reports of Ukraine’s advance and said its forces had defeated Ukrainian forces.
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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Andrew Osborne, Mathias Williams, William MacLean; Editing by Philippa Fletcher
Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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