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23 Feb, 2023 10:51

Official rebuffs claim of explosions near nuclear plant

The IAEA has said its team heard artillery fire near the Zaporozhye facility
Official rebuffs claim of explosions near nuclear plant

Moscow has no heavy artillery systems stationed near the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), situated close to the frontline with Ukraine, Renat Karchaa, an adviser at Russia’s national nuclear operator Rosenergoatom, said on Thursday.

He was responding to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director Mariano Grossi, who said on Sunday that his team on the ground had heard “the sound of more artillery fire taking place close to the ZNPP” the previous day.

The IAEA deployed a monitoring team to Europe’s biggest plant in September.

Karchaa dismissed Grossi’s claim as “ridiculous.” “Not a single long-range artillery system or a multiple rocket launcher is stationed close to the plant. That would be impossible,” Karchaa told TASS news agency. “Russia will never place the nuclear power plant in danger. Unlike Ukraine, we care about nuclear safety.”

Moscow has repeatedly accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the plant. Washington and Kiev, meanwhile, claim that Russian troops have used the facility as a “shield.”

Russian officials have maintained that military personnel seen at the plant were only there to protect the facility.

The ZNPP was seized by Russian soldiers shortly after Moscow launched its military operation in the neighboring state almost a year ago. The Zaporozhye Region, together with three other former Ukrainian territories, eventually became a part of Russia after holding a referendum on the matter in September. The plant has since been taken off the Ukrainian grid.