Russian President Putin agrees that a team of independent inspectors can travel to the Moscow-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant via Ukraine, the French presidency says after a call with Macron.

Moscow and Kiev have accused each other of shelling Europe's largest nuclear power plant, which was captured by Russia in March but is still run by Ukrainian technicians.
Moscow and Kiev have accused each other of shelling Europe's largest nuclear power plant, which was captured by Russia in March but is still run by Ukrainian technicians. (AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron have called for independent inspections at the Moscow-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the Kremlin has said in a statement.

In a phone call on Friday, Putin warned Macron that shelling of the nuclear power plant — the biggest in Europe — could result in "large-scale catastrophe that could lead to radiation contamination of vast territories".

Moscow and Kiev have accused each other of shelling the plant in southern Ukraine that was captured by Russia in March but is still run by Ukrainian technicians.

According to the Kremlin, both leaders called for experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect the plant "as soon as possible" and "assess the real situation on the ground".

"The Russian side confirmed its readiness to provide the Agency inspectors with the necessary assistance," the statement said.

In a separate statement, the French presidency said Macron "supported the dispatch of a mission of experts from the IAEA to the site under conditions agreed by Ukraine and the United Nations".

Putin and Macron will speak again "in the coming days on this subject after talks between the technical teams and before the deployment of the mission," according to the Elysee.

Putin also "reconsidered the demand" that an IAEA team travel through Russia to the site, agreeing that the inspectors can travel via Ukraine, Macron's office said.

READ MORE: Erdogan stresses Ukraine diplomacy, warns against nuclear plant fighting

Growing concerns

The phone call came just a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN chief Antonio Guterres, meeting in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, sounded the alarm over the intensified fighting near the plant, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged the UN to secure the site.

The plant has been targeted by several strikes in recent days, increasing fears of a nuclear disaster. Both Kiev and Moscow have this week accused each other of preparing "provocations" at the facility.

Russia's foreign ministry rejected on Thursday a proposal by United Nations Secretary-General Guterres to demilitarise the area around the plant, saying it would make the facility "more vulnerable".

Guterres, who is on a visit to Ukraine, has called for the withdrawal of military personnel and equipment from the power station and for "a safe perimeter of demilitarisation."

The plant, located near the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula, has six of Ukraine's 15 reactors, and is capable of supplying power for four million homes. Only two of the facility's six reactors are working.

Guterres, who visited the port of Odessa in southern Ukraine on Friday, said the Zaporizhzhia power station must not be cut off from Ukraine's grid, following Ukrainian reports that Moscow was planning to do so.

"Obviously the electricity from Zaporizhzhia is Ukrainian electricity...This principle must be fully respected," he said.

Kiev accused Moscow earlier on Friday of planning to cut electricity produced in Zaporizhzhia.

"There is information that Russian occupying troops are planning to shut off the reactors and switch them from the output lines of the Ukrainian energy system," Ukrainian energy operator Energoatom said.

The operator also warned Russia was limiting staff access to the site.

Last week, Energoatom said Russian forces were planning to re-route Zaporizhzhia's electricity to Crimea, annexed in 2014.

READ MORE: Concerns grow as Kiev, Moscow trade blame over shelling near nuclear plant

Source: TRTWorld and agencies