After months of negotiations, a team of nuclear experts has arrived in the city of Zaporizhia, despite reports from Ukraine of Russian shelling nearby. The last stage is still missing: the final access to the city's embattled nuclear power plant.
The team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has arrived in the city of the same name in southern Ukraine on the way to the Ukrainian nuclear power plant Zaporizhia. A convoy of around 20 vehicles - including an ambulance - had arrived in Zaporizhia, confirmed ntv reporter Nadja Kriewald.
However, the experts would not continue to the nuclear power plant today, but would first spend a night in the city, Kriewald reported. Tomorrow it will then go through the buffer zone and over the front line to the contested power plant. The prerequisite for this is "that there is a ceasefire until then".
According to Ukrainian sources, after the IAEA team left Kyiv, the Russian army shelled the town of Enerhodar near the power plant. The city on the Dnipro was being attacked by the Russians with shells, said the military administrator of the Nikopol district, Evhen Yevtushenko.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, stressed that he and his team were going to a war zone. That is why security guarantees not only from Russia but also from Ukraine were necessary beforehand. "We have an important job to do - to understand the real situation there and to help stabilize the situation as best we can," he said.
With six reactors, Europe's largest nuclear power plant has been controlled by Russian troops since the beginning of March. In the past few weeks, the area around the nuclear power plant had been repeatedly shelled, for which Ukraine and Russia blamed each other. The shelling fueled fears that Zaporizhia could experience a nuclear disaster similar to that in 1986 in Chernobyl, Ukraine, which was then part of the Soviet Union.
IAEA chief Grossi had been demanding access to the facility in Zaporizhia for months - and in early August warned of the "very real danger of a nuclear catastrophe." He also suggested that the UN agency could establish a permanent presence at the nuclear power plant. The proposal is welcomed, said the Russian envoy to international organizations, Mikhail Ulyanov, in Vienna.
Although occupied by Russian troops, Zaporizhia is still operated by Ukrainian technicians. On Tuesday, IAEA inspectors met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.