Ukraine: Russia wants to wreck IAEA mission with fresh shelling

·2 min read
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission departs for visit to Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia

KYIV (Reuters) - The Ukrainian president's chief of staff accused Russia of seeking to "wreck" the International Atomic Energy Agency's inspection visit to the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, saying Russia shelled the plant again on Thursday.

"The Russians have shelled (the town of) Enerhodar and the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant," Yermak wrote on Telegram, accusing Russia of acting like a "terrorist state".

The Zaporizhzhia plant, located adjacent to Enerhodar, was occupied by Moscow's forces in March, but is still connected to the Ukrainian electricity grid and run by employees from Ukraine's state nuclear company Energoatom.

The plant's area has come under repeated shelling in the past month, with Kyiv and Moscow trading blame for the strikes.

"It is Russia that is responsible for everything happening at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant and in Enerhodar," Yermak wrote on Thursday, adding: "They want to wreck the IAEA mission's visit."

Minutes later, presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter that Russia was conducting "demonstrative strikes" in Enerhodar in order to blame Ukraine for them.

"Russia conducts demonstrative strikes on Enerhodar, along the IAEA mission's official route, in order to blame Ukraine for this," Podolyak wrote, adding that this was a "demonstration of (Russia's) real 'interest' in the inspection".

The mission by the United Nations' nuclear watchdog aims to assess risks from the ongoing hostilities in the area.

Russia's defence ministry and a local Moscow-backed local official accused Ukraine of an attempt to seize the Zaporizhzhia plant after it said up to 60 Ukrainian soldiers crossed the front-line Dnipro river in boats early on Thursday.

The ministry said that "measures had been taken" to destroy the Ukrainian troops, including use of military aviation.00000

Reuters could not immediately verify the reports of either side.

(Reporting by Max Hunder and Aleksandar Vasovic, editing by Mark Heinrich)