A team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arrived at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Enerhodar on Thursday for a long-awaited visit.
IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said in a video on Twitter that he had completed his first tour of “key areas” at the plant and that his team was going to stay at the facility. “My team is staying on and, more importantly, we are establishing a continued presence,” he said.
The ZNPP and the territory around it has been controlled by Russian forces since March. But recently, the plant has come under attack, raising fears of a potential nuclear disaster. Ukraine has tried to blame Russia for the shelling on the plant, but Moscow has little reason to attack a facility it controls.
In the morning before Grossi and his team arrived at the plant, Russia accused Ukraine of attempting to launch an attack to recapture the plant. Moscow said it thwarted an operation by 60 militants that landed on the shore near the ZNPP, which is located on the Dnieper River. Russian-installed officials in the area also reported Ukrainian shelling in Enerhodar.
For their part, Ukraine accused Russia of shelling Enerhodar, a city that’s under Russian control, and shelling the corridors set up for the IAEA inspectors. Neither side’s claims have been confirmed, but Grossi did acknowledge the military activity in the region while he was traveling to the plant.
“There were moments when fire was obvious — heavy machine guns, artillery, mortars at two or three times were really very concerning, I would say, for all of us,” Grossi said, according to The Associated Press.
The IAEA could potentially attribute blame for the recent attacks on the ZNPP. Before Grossi’s visit, Russia had been urging the IAEA to send a team to the plant so they could see who was behind the shelling and welcomed the idea of a permanent presence.