Nuclear inspector reveals next step of Zaporozhye mission
The International Atomic Energy Agency will maintain a “continued presence” at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi announced on Thursday, after visiting the Russian-controlled facility in Ukraine. Shortly before the UN inspectors arrived, Russia accused Ukraine of shelling the area and sending a commando team to seize the plant.
“We are finishing our long-awaited visit to the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant,” Grossi said in a short video posted on Twitter. “I have just completed a first tour of the key areas that we wanted to see in this first approach to the whole facility.”
“Of course, there is a lot more to do. My team is staying on, and more importantly – most importantly – we are establishing a continued presence by the IAEA here,” he added, against the backdrop of the Reactor 3 building.
Grossi personally led the IAEA mission to inspect the plant, which traveled through Kiev and the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporozhye before arriving in Russian-held Energodar on Thursday. After a delay at a Ukrainian checkpoint, they toured the facility for several hours, before heading back to Ukrainian-controlled territory.
According to RT’s Alexey Repin, who was on site, the IAEA team also inspected the damage from Thursday morning’s Ukrainian shelling. They also chose to tour the facility on foot rather than drive, as originally expected.
Zaporozhye is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, and has been under Russian control since early March. Russia has called for an IAEA visit since June. In August, the nuclear site was targeted by regular artillery and drone attacks, which Moscow and Kiev blamed on each other. Ukrainian officials also claimed that the Russian military was using the plant as a military base, stationing heavy weapons there. Moscow denied the accusations, stating that it only had lightly armed guards defending the facility.
On Thursday morning, Ukrainian artillery shelled the plant while a team of commandos crossed the reservoir in boats and attempted to storm the facility in order to use the UN team as “human shields,” the Russian Defense Ministry said. Both the initial assault group and the reinforcements that followed were reportedly destroyed by the National Guard and combat helicopters, however.
Russia “did what it needed to do to keep our inspectors safe,” a spokesman for the UN secretary-general said on Thursday, after getting asked about Moscow’s report.