Europe’s largest nuclear power plant faced new danger on Thursday when Ukraine accused Russian troops of shelling the site — and the route a team of international inspectors took in an effort to ensure safety after weeks of growing alarm about a radiation disaster.
The United Nations mission promised to continue even as the two sides made fresh allegations that the other was endangering its members and the plant’s nuclear reactors. But the team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency was delayed during the fighting.
“The IAEA mission has been delayed about three hours on the Ukrainian-controlled side of the front line,” a spokesman said in an emailed statement.
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi “has personally negotiated with the Ukrainian military authorities to proceed and remains determined that this important mission will [Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant] today,” the spokesperson said.
Moscow officials blamed Kiev for the eruption of fierce fighting around the factory, which is located in southern Ukraine but under Russian occupation. The Defense Ministry said Ukrainian forces had attempted a daring amphibious landing in an attempt to regain control of the factory and disrupt the UN mission.
NBC News was unable to immediately verify either party’s claims.
The safety systems were activated by shelling from the factory itself and one of the its reactors, while power lines were also damaged, officials from both sides said early Thursday.
Ukraine’s State Nuclear Energy Agency blamed Russian forces for the shelling, while a local Russian-installed official said Ukrainian forces were responsible.
Moscow troops also fired on the route the team of UN inspectors followed as they made their way from the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhya to the nearby factory – which has been used by Russian troops since the early days of the war. checked. war, Oleksandr Starukh, the Ukrainian head of the Zaporizhzhya region, said in a after on Telegram.
Both sides also blamed each other for shelling the nearby town of Enerhodar.
Top Ukrainian officials said Russian shelling of the city and factory was part of an effort to disrupt the mission.
“They want to disrupt the visit of the IAEA mission. These are the actions of a terrorist state, which fears that the world will find out the truth,” said President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office head Andriy Yermak. said in a Telegram message.
The Kremlin’s intent was “to blame Ukraine,” Zelensky’s adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, said. also said: in a tweet.
“This is a demonstration of [Russia’s] real ‘interest’ in the inspection,” he added.