U.N. inspectors assess damage to Ukraine nuclear plant, say its integrity has been “violated”

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  • IAEA inspectors on second day of visit to Zaporizhzhya
  • Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of shelling at factory
  • Ukrainian troops launch counter-offensive in the south

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine, Sept. 2 (Reuters) – The head of the UN nuclear watchdog said the physical integrity of the Russian-occupied nuclear power plant in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya had been violated several times and was concerned about the situation there.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi spoke after spending several hours at the factory on Thursday, defying gunfire and saying it had come “uncomfortably close”.

He and his team of UN experts returned to the front lines on Friday to assess the physical damage to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

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The site was captured by Russian forces shortly after they invaded Ukraine in late February and has become a major concern over the possibility that shelling nearby could cause a nuclear disaster.

Moscow and Kiev blame each other for the shelling. Kiev accuses Moscow of using the facility to protect its troops, an accusation Moscow denies but rejects calls for its troops to withdraw. The factory is still run by Ukrainian personnel.

Grossi said on his return to Ukrainian territory on Thursday: “It is clear that the factory and the physical integrity of the factory have been violated several times… this cannot continue to happen.”

He said his experts would stay at the facility and he…

continued to worry until the situation stabilized.

Grossi said he was able to explore the entire site and see key areas such as the emergency systems and control rooms. His team should now have a lot of work to do to complete the analysis of the technical aspects.

“We’re not going anywhere. The IAEA is here now, it’s in the factory and it’s not moving — it’s going to stay there,” Grossi told reporters once he got back to the Ukrainian-occupied territory.

Those experts, he said, would provide what he called an unbiased, neutral, technically sound assessment of what was happening on the ground.

The IAEA team was delayed several hours by shelling near the factory site.

“There were times when fire was obvious, heavy machine gun, artillery mortars, on two or three occasions (it was) really very concerning, I’d say for all of us,” Grossi said.

One of the factory’s reactors was forced to shut down on Thursday due to shelling. read more

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy reiterated his call for all troops to be removed from the factory – a demand supported by Kiev’s western allies and the United Nations.

“The most important thing that needs to be done is the demilitarization of the station’s territory,” Zelenskiy said in a video speech.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that Moscow is doing everything it can to ensure that the plant can operate safely and that IAEA inspectors can carry out their duties.

Several towns near the plant came under Russian shelling on Thursday, Zaporizhia Regional Council mayor Mykola Lukashuk said. Reuters could not independently confirm this.

The plant is located on the southern bank of a huge reservoir on the Dnipro River that divides Russian and Ukrainian forces in central southern Ukraine. Before the war, it supplied more than a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity.

COUNTEROFFENSIVE

Ukraine launched an offensive this week to retake territory in southern Ukraine, mainly further down the Dnipro in neighboring Kherson province.

Both sides have claimed battlefield successes in the new Ukrainian attack, though details have been scarce so far and Ukrainian officials are releasing little information.

Natalia Humeniuk, the spokesman for Ukraine’s southern command, said on Friday that Ukrainian troops destroyed ammunition depots and pontoon bridges to hinder the movement of Russian reserves.

“Our successes are compelling and we will be able to release more information soon,” she said.

Moscow denies reports of Ukrainian progress and says its troops have displaced Ukrainian troops.

Reuters was unable to independently verify those claims.

Ukraine’s general staff said on Friday that Russian troops shelled dozens of towns and villages, including Kharkiv – Ukraine’s second largest city – in the north and Donetsk in the east.

More than seven million people have fled Ukraine, thousands have died and cities have been reduced to rubble in what Kiev and the West call Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression.

Moscow calls its actions a “special military operation” to rid Ukraine of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities.

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Reporting by Tom Balmforth in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, and by Reuters agencies; Written by Stephen Coates and Angus MacSwan; Editing by Nick Macfie

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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