Zelenskyy says Russia attacking nuclear plant environs ahead of UN visit

MYKOLAIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday (Aug 30) accused Russia of attacking the area near Europe’s biggest nuclear plant due to be visited by UN inspectors as intense battles raged in southern Ukraine.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi arrived in Kyiv late on Monday together with a 13-strong team and headed for the Zaporizhzhia plant which has been occupied by Russian troops since early March.

“Sadly, Russia is not stopping its provocations precisely in the directions the mission needs to travel to arrive at the plant,” Zelenskyy said in his daily address to the nation.

“I hope the IAEA team will be able to start its work,” he said, adding that the situation in the plant was “extremely menacing”.

“The occupiers have not abandoned the plant, they are continuing bombardments and are not withdrawing arms and ammunition from the site. They are intimidating our personnel. The risk of a nuclear catastrophe due to Russian actions is not diminishing for even an hour”, he added.

“An immediate and total demilitarisation in Zaporizhzhia is necessary”.

The plant was targeted over the weekend by fresh shelling, Ukraine’s nuclear agency Energoatom said, with Moscow and Kyiv trading blame for attacks around the complex of six nuclear reactors located on the banks of the Dnipro River.

Meanwhile, intensive fighting raged across the nearby southern region of Kherson and Donbas, Zelenskyy said.

Most of the region of Kherson bordering the Black Sea and its provincial capital of the same name were seized by Russian forces at the start of the invasion six months ago.

With the war in the eastern Donbas region largely stalled, analysts have said for weeks that combat is likely to shift south to break the stalemate before winter comes.

Also Tuesday, fresh Russian strikes on the centre of the northeastern city of Kharkiv killed at least five people and injured seven.