The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Thursday that “physical integrity” from the Ukrainian power plant in Zaporizhzhia was “violated”, after the first inspection of that plant, occupied by Russian troops and targeted by bombing.
The Russian army seized in March the Zaporizhzhia power plant, the largest in Europea few days after having invaded the Ukrainian territory on February 24.
The two sides blame each other for bombing in the area in recent weeks, which has raised fears of a nuclear disaster.
Thursday’s inspection was carried out by the 14-member IAEA mission, including its director general, Raphael Grossithat they arrived at the scene after a risky crossing of the front line and shortly after new shelling in the area.
“It is evident that (…) the physical integrity of the plant was violated on several occasions”, declared Grossi upon returning to Ukrainian-controlled territory in the afternoon.
“We lack evaluation elements” but “this cannot happen again,” he added.
A productive mission
The Argentine diplomat indicated that several members of the mission will remain “until Sunday or Monday to continue the evaluation”.
“We have a lot of work to analyze certain technical aspects”, he pointed out, although without specifying the number of inspectors who remained in the place. Grossi also indicated that the IAEA wants “establish a continuous presence” at the Zaporizhzhia plant.
Thursday’s mission, he stressed, was productive, as it allowed “collecting a lot of information.”
“I saw the main things I needed to see and his explanations were very clear”, he highlighted. “We have been able to visit the entire site. I was in the units [de reactores]I saw the emergency system and other spaces, the control rooms”, he narrowed down.
Grossi praised the Ukrainian staff who continue to work at the plant under Russian control. “Of course they are in a difficult situation, but they have an incredible level of professionalism,” she said.
He also described thequite difficult situation” that his team faced, which Heard gunfire on the way to the plant and when crossing the front line.
“There were moments when the shots were evident, from heavy machine guns, artillery, mortars on two or three occasions. we were very worried”, Grossi said.
The inspectors entered the area from areas controlled by Ukraine. It was a condition of kyiv, which feared that the visit would legitimize the Russian occupation.
The experts, dressed in blue vests and helmets, they arrived at the compound despite the fact that in the morning there were new bombardments that forced the Ukrainian operator to disconnect the electrical network of one of the six reactors.
“This is the second time in the last ten days that the criminal actions of the Russian military have caused the closure of the unit,” said the operator, Energoatom.
According to this Ukrainian state group, the plant’s emergency protection system was activated shortly before 05:00 (02:00 GMT), shutting down reactor five, “due to another mortar shelling.” [ruso]”. In addition, an electrical supply line “was damaged” in the attack and caused a blackout.
“Stop playing with fire”
“It is time to stop playing with fire and take concrete steps to protect this facility and others like it from any military operations.”said in kyiv the general director of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Robert Mardin.
“The slightest miscalculation could unleash devastation that we will mourn for decades to come.”he added.
The Russian Ministry of Defense assured that dozens of “saboteurs” of the Ukrainian army had crossed the Dnieper River in boats, which separates their positions, three kilometers northeast of the plant, and indicated that it had taken “measures to destroy the enemy.”
None of this deterred the inspection team.
Grossi assured on Wednesday that the IAEA wanted to establish a “permanent presence” with the mission of “avoiding a nuclear accident and preserving this important nuclear power plant”.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian army reported in the evening of “massive bombing” Russians around Kharkov (northeast), the country’s second largest city, as well as in Zaporizhia (south) and in Kramatorsk, Bakhmut and Sloviansk (east).
The military bulletin says nothing about the counteroffensive launched this week by Ukrainian troops in the south of the country, especially in the Kherson region, one of the few large cities that Russia managed to conquer in more than six months of offensive.
The NGO Human Rights Watch He denounced that Russian forces are forcibly transferring civilians to areas under their control since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine.
(By Stanislav Doshchitsyn – AFP)
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