Russian-installed authorities in the Ukrainian city of Enerhodar accused Ukrainian troops of once again shelling the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to Russia’s TASS news agency. The city authorities said two shells exploded near a spent fuel storage building at the plant, which was captured by Russian forces in March but still run by Ukrainian staff.
Ukraine and Russia have repeatedly accused each other of attacking Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant, set to be visited this week by a mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The news will add to further worries of a radiation disaster being triggered by shelling near the south Ukraine nuclear plant.
The world is scrambling to avoid a disaster at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, where both sides have traded accusations of shelling in its vicinity.
Both say the situation at the facility threatens the safety of Europe and accuse each other of risking a nuclear disaster.
Ukraine said a mission from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the facility was due to arrive in Kyiv on Monday and start work in the coming days.
The Vienna-based organisation said IAEA chief Rafael Grossi would lead the mission to assess physical damage, evaluate working conditions and check safety and security systems.
It will also “perform urgent safeguards activities”, a reference to keeping track of nuclear material.
The Kremlin said the IAEA mission was “necessary” and urged the international community to pressure Ukraine to reduce military tensions at the plant.
Yevgeny Balitsky, head of the Russian-installed administration in the region, said officials were “ready to provide access to the station” and would use the opportunity to “provide evidence that Ukraine is behaving like a nuclear terrorist state”.
Russia’s foreign ministry said the mission must do its work in a politically neutral manner.
The United Nations, US and Ukraine have called for the withdrawal of military equipment and personnel from the complex to ensure it is not a target.
But the Kremlin have once again ruled out vacating the site.
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said: “We continue to believe that a controlled shutdown of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactors would be the safest and least risky option in the near-term.”
Liliia Vaulina, 22, one of a number of civilians who had fled Enerhodar for the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia, some 30 miles upriver from the plant, said she hoped the IAEA mission would lead to a demilitarisation of its area.
She said: “I think that they will stop the bombing.”
It comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged Russian troops to flee from an offensive launched by his forces near the southern city of Kherson saying his military were taking back their territory, though Moscow said the assault had failed.
In his nightly address late on Monday, Zelensky vowed that Ukrainian troops would chase the Russian army “to the border”.
He said: “If they want to survive – it’s time for the Russian military to run away. Go home.
“Ukraine is taking back its own.”
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