The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has reported powerful explosions near Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and renewed calls for a security zone around it.
A Russian official quickly dismissed the comments by Rafael Grossi, head of the IAEA, saying the United Nations’ body had suggested that Moscow could not uphold nuclear safety at the plant.
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Grossi, who visited Ukraine last week, said on Thursday that IAEA monitors routinely reported explosions near the plant.
“Yesterday, eight strong detonations were heard at around 10 a.m. local time, causing office windows at the plant to vibrate, and more were audible today,” he said in a statement.
Russian forces seized the Zaporizhzhia plant from Ukraine in early March, soon after invading, and Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of engaging in fighting around the sensitive site.
Safety concerns have prompted the IAEA to place experts at all of Ukraine’s five nuclear stations.
Renat Karchaa, an adviser to the head of Rosenergoatom, the company operating Russia’s nuclear plants, said Grossi’s comments were unfounded.
“I can only describe this as a provocation. Before you provide such information you need to check it and establish that it is not based on rumour,” Russia’s TASS news agency quoted Karchaa as saying.
“On the one hand, they want to show that they are doing something useful. On the other, they are again sowing doubt in Western public opinion that somehow Russia cannot cope with upholding nuclear safety,” he said.
Karchaa’s acerbic tone was somewhat unusual. Russian officials have sought to ensure Western countries that they are maintaining safety standards and continue to work with the IAEA.
In his statement, Grossi said he had discussed the proposed nuclear safety zone around the plant with the European Union in Brussels this week and would have new talks with Moscow.