IAEA Sets Out for Zaporizhzhia Plant, Hopes for Permanent Presence

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) inspectors set off from Kyiv early Wednesday to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and are expected to arrive there on Thursday morning.

UN nuclear experts are en route for an inspection mission at the nuclear power plant, which is in a region of Ukraine occupied by Russia after bombardment in the area led to fears of a catastrophe.

Comprised of representatives from countries deemed neutral by both Russia and Ukraine, the 14-member IAEA mission will inspect the plant and lend technical assistance during the visit that was initially intended to last four days.

But, according to Yevgeny Balitsky, the head of the Russian-installed Zaporizhzhia administration, IAEA inspectors will be given access for one day, noting that the program of the visit is designed in such a manner that all elements that they have talked about can be seen within this process.

IAEA’s chief Rafael Grossi, who is leading the mission, stressed that they are going to a war zone in an occupied territory so they’ve been given explicit safety guarantees not only from the Russians but also from Ukraine.

After damaging the vital electricity supplies last week, fighting in and around Europe’s largest nuclear plant continued on Monday when the plant and the nearby Russian-occupied towns of Enerhodar and Nikapol came under heavy shelling.

Grossi hopes to establish a permanent mission of IAEA in Ukraine to monitor the plant and as Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s representative to the international organizations in Vienna, says, Russia welcomes the idea that IAEA experts could stay on a permanent basis.

Meanwhile, two days after Kyiv announced the start of a southern counteroffensive to retake territory, the deputy head of Kherson’s regional council, Yuriy Sobolevskyi, informed that Ukrainian forces have had success in Kherson, Berislav, and Kakhovka districts of the Russian-occupied region of Kherson, but declined to give details.

Russia’s defense ministry, on the other hand, claims that Ukraine’s forces are suffering heavy losses in equipment and men and that Kyiv’s attempts to mount a counteroffensive in the south of Ukraine had failed.