UN atomic watchdog team sets off for Zaporozhye NPP: Chief
The arrival of a watchdog in Kiev comes amid fears that the mission would be canceled due to regular Ukrainian shelling on Russian-occupied power plants.
On Wednesday, the UN atomic watchdog's director said an inspection team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is heading to the Russian Zaporozhye nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.
"We are now finally moving after six months of... efforts. The IAEA is moving into the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant," IAEA chief Rafael Grossi told reporters in Kiev before setting off.
The Reuters news agency reported citing its witness at the scene that an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) car convoy set off from the Ukrainian capital Kiev toward Zaporozhye NPP.
It was not clear when the IAEA mission planned to arrive at the NPP.
In a statement posted on the IAEA website a few days ago, Grossi said, "I’m continuing to consult very actively and intensively with all parties so that this vital IAEA mission can take place without further delay. The IAEA’s presence will help stabilize the nuclear safety and security situation at the site and reduce the risk of a severe nuclear accident in Europe. The mission is expected to occur within the next few days if ongoing negotiations succeed."
The possible mission visit was discussed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his French counterpart Catherine Colonna during a phone conversation they had, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
"The sides discussed in detail the situation around the Zaporozhye NPP and the opportunities available for organizing a visit to the station by the IAEA mission. Lavrov noted that the Kiev regime continues to shell the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and the territory adjacent to it, exposing the entire European population to the danger of a nuclear catastrophe with the obvious complicity of its foreign sponsors," the Ministry said in a statement.
IAEA visit to Zaporozhye NPP via Kiev 'very dangerous': Moscow
A trip by an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) delegation to Zaporozhye nuclear power plant (NPP) through Kiev and then across the contact line will be very dangerous, asserted Igor Vishnevetsky, the Deputy Director of the Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control at the Russian Foreign Ministry on August 23.
Commenting on statements made in Kiev that the purpose of the inspectors' visit is the demilitarization of the NPP, Vishnevetsky argued, "The IAEA is not engaged in demilitarization and security. It has a clear mandate, which is the implementation of IAEA guarantees," adding, "This is just an irresponsible statement."
Two weeks prior to the statement, Russia accused the office of the United Nations Secretary-General of obstructing the work of IAEA experts and preventing them from visiting the Zaporozhye NPP in eastern Ukraine.
Russian forces have had complete control over the nuclear plant since March, but drone attacks by Ukrainian forces have regularly targeted the facility, leading Russia to request help from the IAEA to address security issues.