UN inspectors head to Ukraine nuclear plant in war zone

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – A team of UN inspectors made their way to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant Wednesday on a dangerous, long-sought mission to protect the site and prevent a catastrophe from the fighting that rages around it.

Underlining the danger, Kiev and Moscow again accused each other of shelling the area around the complex at night. Zaporizhzhya is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.

Fighting at the beginning of March caused a short fire in the training complex and the factory was temporarily shut down in recent days due to damage to a transmission line, increasing fear of a radiation leak or a reactor meltdown. Officials have started handing out anti-radiation iodine tablets to local residents.

The complex is occupied by Russian troops, but has been run by Ukrainian engineers since the early days of the 6-month-old war. Ukraine alleges that Russia uses the factory as a shield, stores weapons there and launches attacks from the area, while Moscow accuses Ukraine of recklessly firing on the site.

For months as the fighting escalates, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency has sought access to the factory for an unprecedented war mission, and world leaders have demanded that the UN watchdog be allowed to inspect the factory.

With the convoy of UN-approved vans and SUVs finally arriving in the afternoon in the city of Zaporizhzhya, some 120 kilometers (70 miles) down the road from the plant, IAEA chief and mission leader Rafael Grossi said it ” real work” starts Thursday. . He underlined the challenges ahead.

“It is a mission that aims to prevent a nuclear accident and to preserve this important – the largest, the largest – nuclear power plant in Europe,” he said.

He said an initial tour will take a few days, after which “we’ll have a pretty good idea of ​​what’s going on.” Grossi said he had received “explicit assurances” from Russia that the 14 experts would be able to do their job.

Grossi said he hopes the IAEA will be able to establish an “ongoing presence” at the plant to protect it from an accident.

The world watched with concern at the progress of the mission. Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, reiterated a call on Russia to completely demilitarize the area around the factory.

“They are playing games. They’re gambling with nuclear security,” Borrell said. “We can’t play war games near a site like this.”

While the inspectors were en route, Russian-backed local authorities repeatedly accused Ukrainian troops of shelling the factory site and the city where it is located, Enerhodar. They said drone strikes hit the factory’s administrative building and training center.

Yevhen Yevtushenko, chief of administration in the Ukrainian city of Nikopol, across the Dnieper River from the factory, accused the attacks were carried out by the Russians in an attempt to make Ukraine appear as the culprit.

Kiev seeks international help to regain control of the area.

“We think the mission should be a very important step to return (the factory) to the Ukrainian government by the end of the year,” said Ukraine’s Energy Minister German Galushchenko.

In other developments:

— Russia’s Gazprom stopped the flow of natural gas by a major pipeline to Western Europe early Wednesday for what would reportedly be a three-day shutdown for routine maintenance. The German authorities question that explanation.

— EU countries agreed to make it more time-consuming and expensive for Russian citizens to get a visa to enter the 27-nation bloc. They failed to reach a consensus on an outright tourist ban in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

– Ukrainian officials said automatic fire was heard in the streets of South Kherson and claimed Russian soldiers searched homes for anti-Russian partisans. A spate of fighting in the Russian-occupied region this week sparked early speculation that Ukraine might launch a counter-offensive.

— Four people have been killed and two injured in Russian missile strikes in the east’s Donetsk region in the past day, Ukraine said.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine:

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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