Ukrainian nuclear power plant inspectors arrive despite fighting

The bombing of the factory itself triggered its security systems and forced the shutdown of one of the its reactors while damaging power lines, officials from both sides said Thursday.

Ukraine’s state nuclear agency blamed Russian forces for the bombing, while a Russian-installed local official said Ukrainian forces were responsible.

Troops from Moscow were also firing into the route taken by the UN inspection team as they set off from the town of Zaporizhzhia – which is under Ukrainian control – towards the nearby factory – which is controlled by Russian forces since the early days of the war, Oleksandr Starukh, Ukrainian leader of the Zaporizhzhia region, said in a Publish on Telegram.

Both sides also accused each other of bombing the nearby town of Enerhodar.

Senior Ukrainian officials said the Russian shelling of the town and factory was part of an effort to interfere with the mission.

“They want to disrupt the visit of the IAEA mission. These are the actions of a terrorist state, which is afraid that the world will learn the truth,” said Andriy Yermak, Chief of Staff to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a Telegram article.

The Kremlin’s intention was “to blame Ukraine”, said Zelenskyy’s adviser Mykhailo Podolyak. also says in a tweet.

But the Russian Ministry of Defense accused Kyiv to try to disrupt the IAEA visit. The situation in the Zaporizhzhia plant area “is complex”, the ministry added, but remains under “full control”.

He said earlier that Ukrainian forces had launched a remarkable mission to regain control of the plant.

The Ministry said that a Ukrainian “sabotage group” of up to 60 soldiers crossed the Dnieper River separating the two banks and landed on the coast within 2 miles of the plant. He said steps had been taken to destroy the group, including using military helicopters. The state news agency Ria later reportedciting local Russian-installed officials, that Russian forces had arrested three suspected saboteurs.

The United Nations Atomic Energy Agency has warned for months on the risk of a nuclear disaster at the plant, and has long sought to send a team to inspect and help secure the safety of the complex.

The head of the IAEA announcement the long-awaited mission earlier this week, indicating that the team planned to assess the physical damage to the plant, determine how well its security systems are functioning and carry out any urgent backup activities. The team also intends to speak with Ukrainian workers operating the plant, some of whom have said they were tortured by Russian troops occupying the site.

Kyiv and Moscow have exchanged responsibility for the bombings around the nuclear complex, and last week the plant was unplugged of the Ukrainian national electricity grid for the first time in its 40-year history.

Meanwhile, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross warned on Thursday that little could be done to respond in the event of a major accident at the factory.

“In the event of a nuclear leak, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to provide humanitarian aid,” Robert Mardini told a news conference during a visit to Ukraine, Reuters reported. “That’s why the fighting must stop.”

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