Kremlin says it fears Ukrainian provocation at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant near Enerhodar

MOSCOW (Reuters) -The Kremlin said on Thursday it was concerned about a possible "provocation" from Ukraine at the Russian-held Zaporizhzia nuclear power plant ahead of a visit by the United Nations nuclear watchdog.

Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of trying to sabotage the mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the plant in southern Ukraine, which was delayed on Thursday due to shelling near the facility.

"We are concerned about a provocation from the Ukrainian side, given that barbaric and provocative shelling has not stopped," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

Peskov said Russia was ready to cooperate with the IAEA and was interested in seeing the IAEA mission arrive at the plant.

A spokesperson for the IAEA said that its mission was waiting at a Ukrainian checkpoint after fresh shelling but remained determined to reach the facility later in the day.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier on Thursday that Russia was doing everything to ensure that the plant, controlled by Russian forces but operated by Ukrainian staff, was operating safely.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey)