Ukraine: UN inspectors arrive in Zaporizhia: “Our mission is to prevent a nuclear accident” | International
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The delegation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) wants to “avoid a nuclear accident” in the Ukrainian plant of Zaporizhia, occupied by Russian troops since the beginning of March, its director, Rafael Grossi, declared on Wednesday, upon arriving in the region. where the plant is. “It is a mission that seeks to avoid a nuclear accident and preserve this important nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe,” Grossi told the press in the city of Zaporizhia, the provincial capital, located about 55 kilometers from the plant, whose These facilities house six of Ukraine’s 15 reactors and before the war they provided 20% of the country’s electricity. Russia and Ukraine have accused each other in recent weeks of attacking the nuclear plant compound and its surroundings.
Shortly before the arrival in Zaporizhia (750,000 inhabitants before the start of the war) of the team of 14 technicians headed by Grossi, the Ukrainian Minister of Energy, German Galuschenko, told the Reuters agency that the inspectors’ visit was the first step to “empty and demilitarize” the facilities of the nuclear plant. Galuschenko added that it is essential for kyiv that IAEA workers “can talk to plant personnel, to gather real information, and not Russian information, about what is happening inside.” Grossi has highlighted in Zaporizhia that he heads a “technical mission”, and that the demilitarization of the Energodar plant (the town where it is located) is “a matter of political will”. The Argentine diplomat, in charge of the IAEA since the end of 2019, has insisted that one of the objectives will be to speak with the Ukrainian personnel who operate the plant, subjected, according to the agency, to enormous physical and mental stress.
In his last visit to the Ukrainian capital, on August 18, the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, declared that “any option other than demilitarizing Zaporizhia would be suicide”. The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, assured shortly after that Russia is not considering the possibility of establishing a demilitarized zone around the Energodar plant, as Washington has urged it to do, and accused kyiv of endangering “the security from all over Europe”.
The IAEA mission will try to establish a permanent mission at the facility, according to Ukrainian information agencies. “We have a very, very important mission to fulfill there, to assess the real situation, to help stabilize the situation as much as possible,” Grossi said in kyiv in the morning. “We are going to spend a few days there,” explained the general director of the organization in a hotel in Zaporizhia. “If we are able to establish a permanent presence, or a continuing presence, then the mission will be extended,” he added. Grossi also noted that he had received security guarantees from the Russian and Ukrainian authorities. “These operations are very complex: we are going to a zone that is at war, we are going to an occupied territory,” he stressed.
For his part, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko assured on Wednesday that the IAEA’s intention to leave a permanent mission at the plant “is being discussed” in Moscow. The Russian ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, in turn stressed that “Russia welcomes the intention” of the IAEA to leave its representatives at the atomic plant.
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The IAEA inspectors were received on Tuesday by the President of Ukraine, Volodímir Zelenski, in the country’s capital, from which they left on Wednesday morning. According to the Russian agency Tass, which cites a pro-Russian representative as a source, the delegation should arrive at the headquarters on Thursday. This Wednesday, Zelenski accused Russia of not stopping the “provocations” in the places through which the inspectors must pass to reach the Zaporizhia plant. “The risk of a radiation disaster due to Russian actions does not decrease for a single hour,” said the president, who once again demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops from the plant.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has accused the Ukrainian authorities on Wednesday of trying to frustrate the mission of the IAEA inspectors to the nuclear power plant with new attacks against the facility. “The kyiv regime continued its provocations on August 30 to derail the IAEA mission and create a threat of technological disaster at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant,” military spokesman Igor Konashenkov said, adding that a Ukrainian bombardment had affected to the solid radioactive waste recycling building.
The experts’ trip begins a few days after, last Thursday, a fire caused by the bombings that kyiv and Moscow mutually attribute, left the plant “totally disconnected” due to damage to the electrical connections with the country’s network ” for the first time in its history,” according to Energoatom, the company that ran the facility until Russia seized it. The plant partially returned to operation on Friday.
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