A team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arrived in the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine on Wednesday en route to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), which has been under Russian control since March.
The city of Zaporizhzhia is about 34 miles away from the plant, which is located in the city of Enerhodar. The inspectors are spending Wednesday night in Zaporizhzhia and are expected to travel to the ZNPP on Thursday for a long-awaited visit.
The ZNPP has been the site of frequent shelling, raising fears of a potential nuclear disaster. Ukraine accused Russia of attacking the plant, but Moscow has little reason to shell a facility that it controls. Russian troops are stationed at the ZNPP, and Moscow has rejected calls to demilitarize the area.
IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, who is traveling with the team, said that the initial inspection could only take “a few days” but that he hopes to establish a permanent presence at the base.
“If we are able to establish a permanent presence, or a continued presence, then it’s going to be prolonged. But this first segment is going to take a few days,” Grossi said.
Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s envoy to Vienna, said that Moscow welcomes the IAEA’s plans to establish a permanent presence at the ZNPP. Russian officials have been urging the IAEA to send a mission to the plant, saying that the inspectors will be able to see that Ukraine has been the party attacking the area.