Ukraine war: Zelenskyy hits out over nuclear watchdog's visit to Zaporizhzhia plant

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By Louise Miner  with AFP, AP
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a news conference after the Crimea Platform Summit in Kyiv, 23 August 2022
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a news conference after the Crimea Platform Summit in Kyiv, 23 August 2022   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Andrew Kravchenko

Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has hit out over the UN visit to Europe's largest nuclear power plant. 

He's upset the nuclear watchdog inspecting the Zaporizhzhia facility, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has not yet called for the demilitarisation of the site, which has been occupied by Russian troops since early on in the six-month war. 

Zelenskyy also scolded Russia for allegedly obstructing journalists from accompanying the IAEA on its visit to the plant. 

"The key thing that should happen is the demilitarisation of the territory of the plant," said Zelenskyy. "This is exactly the goal of Ukrainian and international efforts. And it is bad that we have not yet heard the appropriate calls from the IAEA. Although we talked about it with Mr Grossi at our meeting in Kyiv. This was the key – the key! – security point of our agreements. It was clearly stated: demilitarisation and full control by Ukrainian nuclear specialists.

"When we met with (director general of the IAEA, Rafael) Grossi and members of the mission in Kyiv, we agreed that independent journalists [...] would accompany the mission for the world to see the truth and what is really happening. 

"Unfortunately, this has not been done, although it was promised. Unfortunately, the occupiers did not let journalists on the territory but organised a crowd of their propagandists. Unfortunately, the representatives of the IAEA did not protect the representatives of the independent media."

The 14-member expert delegation from the IAEA arrived at Zaporizhzhia on Thursday after months of negotiations to get inside.

The plant has been occupied by Russian forces but is run by Ukrainian engineers.

Ukraine alleges Russia is using it as a shield to launch attacks, while Moscow accuses Ukraine of recklessly firing on the area.

Meanwhile, the head of the UN nuclear agency on Thursday said the "physical integrity" of a Russian-held Ukrainian nuclear plant had been "violated" following frequent shelling on his team's first visit to the facility.

"It is obvious that the plant and physical integrity of the plant has been violated several times," Grossi told reporters after returning to Ukrainian-controlled territory.

Earlier in the day, Grossi reported that the group had collected important information on its first tour at the plant and a part of the mission would continue its assessment "until Sunday or Monday" to continue the assessment, without specifying their number.