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16 Apr, 2024 00:47

No Russian heavy weapons at Zaporozhye plant – IAEA boss

Europe’s largest nuclear power plant was attacked by drones last week
No Russian heavy weapons at Zaporozhye plant – IAEA boss

Russia has not stationed heavy weapons at Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi told reporters on Monday.

Moscow and Kiev have accused each other of shelling Europe’s largest nuclear plant, which sits close to the front line. Ukraine and its Western backers have also accused Moscow of using the facility as cover for its troops.

“There is no heavy weaponry there,” Grossi told reporters, after a UN Security Council meeting dedicated to the renewed strikes on the plant. 

Although there are Russian “armored vehicles and some security presence at the plant,” IAEA monitors did not see any prohibited weapons, such as multiple rocket launchers, tanks, and artillery, Grossi explained. 

He added that the IAEA does not have the mandate to determine which side has been attacking the facility, and argued that “indisputable evidence” is needed to establish who is responsible.

Addressing the Security Council, Grossi confirmed that Europe’s largest nuclear power plant was struck on April 7, which was the first direct attack on the site since November 2022. Inspectors have determined that the apex of the containment dome of the Unit 6 reactor building was hit, he added. “Whilst the damage to the structure is superficial, the attack sets a very dangerous precedent of the successful targeting of the reactor containment,” Grossi stressed, warning that “these reckless attacks must cease immediately.”

Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the Security Council that Ukrainian forces have been “systematically” targeting the plant and surrounding areas. The Russian army has been “spotting and intercepting up to 100 drones per week,” Nebenzia added, insisting that Moscow has never placed heavy weapons at the facility or used the plant to stage attacks on Ukraine.

Officials in Kiev have denied striking the nuclear plant. “The position of Ukraine is clear and unequivocal: we are not conducting any military activities or provocations against nuclear sites,” Andrey Yusov, spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence, told national TV this month. Andrey Kovalenko, the head of the state-run Center for Countering Disinformation, has accused Moscow of spreading false information and “manipulating the IAEA.”

The agency said in its report this week that all of the facility’s six reactors are currently in cold shutdown. According to the plant’s management, only one reactor had been working since 2022 in order to keep the site operational. IAEA inspectors were deployed to monitor the facility in September 2022.