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UN Team to Visit Zaporizhzhia amid Heavy Shelling near Nuclear Plant 

The IAEA team arrived in Zaporizhzhia, 55 km (34 miles) from the plant, on Wednesday

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UKRAINE: On Thursday, UN nuclear experts set out from the Ukrainian city of Kyiv to visit Europe’s biggest nuclear plant, the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia, to assess any damage, even as both sides in the conflict reported renewed shelling in the nearby town of Enerhodar.

Conditions of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant have been much deliberated upon, as Ukraine and Russia traded blames for the shelling and explosion near the plant, raising concerns of a potential radiation “catastrophe”.

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The chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the mission was aware of “increased military activity in the area” but was pressing ahead with its plan to visit the facility and meet staff and evaluate the situation.

The IAEA team arrived in Zaporizhzhia, 55 km (34 miles) from the plant, on Wednesday, and Ukraine’s defence ministry notified that it was scheduled to visit the facility on Thursday.

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“It’s a mission that seeks to prevent a nuclear accident,” Director General of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, told reporters on Wednesday.

While the mission has decided on a few days to inspect the plant, Russian forces stationed at the plant have suggested that the team only gets one day to complete its investigation.

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“If we can establish a permanent or continued presence, then it’s going to be prolonged. But this first segment is going to take a few days,” Grossi said.

The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces reported early on Thursday fighting near the plant and further afield along front lines in the East and South.

Both sides have claimed battle wins amid Ukraine’s efforts to launch a counterattack to recapture the South.

“It is a very slow process because we value people,” said Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, referring to the Ukrainian offensive.

“There will be no quick success.”

Since Russia launched the diabolical workings of its “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, supposedly to rid Ukraine of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking minorities, Ukraine has been plunged into utter chaos.

Millions have fled home, countless children orphaned, cities obliterated to rubble – that is the gloomy picture of Ukraine now as it struggles to battle Russian aggression. 

Ukraine and the West have strongly condemned Russia’s actions as an unprovoked war of aggression, which has now targeted a volatile region in the country, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

The threats to the nuclear plant have spurned concerns of a Chernobyl-like disaster that could easily affect entire Europe and other parts of the world. Fresh shelling near the plant has alarmed nuclear experts and world leaders alike in the last few days.

Russian state news agency TASS reported that residential areas in Enerhodar town, near the plant, had come under “massive” shelling from Ukrainian troops, citing Russian-appointed authorities.

Since five o’clock in the morning, constant mortar shelling of the town … Bursts from automatic weapons could be heard,” the mayor of Enerhodar, Dmytro Orlov, wrote on Telegram, adding: “There are casualties.”

The IAEA mission to the plant is a step toward “deoccupying and demilitarising” it, Ukraine’s energy minister, German Galushchenko, said on Wednesday. However, he added that his government would not be able to follow up on any recommendations “as long as the Russian military is there”.

The Russians clearly have no plans to abandon it now as Ukraine claims that the red army uses it as a convenient military base, from which it pounds nearby towns and villages. Ukraine has also accused Russia of shelling the plant.

Russia has denied the allegations and maintains that radiation levels at the plant are normal. It also accuses Ukraine of targeting the plant to generate outrage so that the area will be demilitarized.

Russia had said it welcomed the IAEA’s stated intention to set up a permanent mission at the plant. Still, the head of the Russian-installed administration in the area told Interfax the inspectors “must see the work of the station in one day“.

Also Read: Zelensky Urges Russians to Flee as Ukraine Conducts Offensive in South

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