A team from the UN nuclear agency has arrived at the site of Europe’s largest nuclear plant to inspect security conditions amid fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces.
A team of inspectors from the UN atomic agency has arrived at the Moscow-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine, Russian RIA Novosti and Interfax news agencies have reported.
Thursday's visit of the 14-strong team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) comes as the plant — Europe's largest nuclear facility — has suffered repeated shelling that Moscow and Kiev accuse each other of carrying out.
"We are aware of the current situation. There has been military activity, including this morning, several minutes ago... but we are not stopping," IAEA chief Rafael Grossi told reporters when his team left Zaporizhzhia city en route to the plant.
"My mission is...to prevent a nuclear accident and preserve the largest nuclear power plant in Europe."
The team arrived in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, 55 kilometres (34 miles) away from the plant, on Wednesday.
UN inspectors visit Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in a perilous, long-sought mission to safeguard the site and prevent a catastrophe from the fighting raging on its 190th day now— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) September 1, 2022
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Russia accused of shelling Energodar
The fate of Europe's largest nuclear power plant, which is located on the frontline of the fighting, has stoked fears of a nuclear disaster.
Ukraine on Thursday accused Russia of attacking a city housing the plant ahead of the visit by UN inspectors.
Since dawn, Moscow's troops "shelled Energodar with mortars and used automatic weapons and rockets," Mayor Dmytro Orlov said on Telegram, publishing photos of damaged buildings in the Russian-occupied territory with smoke spiralling above them.
"We demand that Russia stops its provocations and gives the IAEA access to this Ukrainian nuclear installation," Orlov said, referring to the UN nuclear watchdog.
"We are preparing for the real work," he said. "We are going to try to establish a permanent presence for the agency."
The Zaporizhzhia plant has been occupied by Russian forces but run by Ukrainian engineers since the early days of the six-month-old conflict.
Ukraine alleges Russia is using the plant as a shield, storing weapons there and launching attacks from around it, while Moscow accuses Ukraine of recklessly firing on the area.