Ukraine: UN lead vows to stay put near Zaporizhzhia power plant despite ‘close gunfire’

·2-min read
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi (C) talks to the press past  Minister of Energy of Ukraine German Galushenko (L) and the head of Ukraine's Energoatom Petro Kotin on a road outside Zaporizhzhia city (AFP via Getty Images)
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi (C) talks to the press past Minister of Energy of Ukraine German Galushenko (L) and the head of Ukraine's Energoatom Petro Kotin on a road outside Zaporizhzhia city (AFP via Getty Images)

The chief of the United Nations’ atomic watchdog has vowed the organisation will stay at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine, despite gunfire being “uncomfortably” close.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi said experts would continue to stay at the Zaporizhzhia facility - having spent several hours there on Thursday.

Both Russia and Ukraine said they fear a possible radiation disaster as a result of shelling, that the two sides blame on each other.

Mr Grossi told Reuters that he had been able to tour the entire site, seeing key areas such as the emergency systems and control rooms. His team would now need to do a lot of work to finish its analysis of worrisome technical aspects, he said.

"We are not going anywhere. The International Atomic Energy Agency is now there, it is at the plant and it is not moving - it's going to stay there,” he said.

"We're going to have a continued presence there at the plant with some of my experts," he told reporters once he had crossed back into Ukrainian-held territory.

Those experts, he said, would provide what he called an impartial neutral technically sound assessment of what was happening on the ground. They would dig deeper into conditions and deliver a report.

"It is obvious that the plant and the physical integrity of the plant has been violated, several times ... this is something that cannot continue to happen," he said.

The IAEA team, which crossed the frontline into Russian-held territory, was delayed several hours by shelling near the site of the plant.

"This morning the situation was pretty difficult but ... having come this far, I was not going to stop," said Mr Grossi.

"There were moments where fire was obvious, heavy machine gun, artillery mortars, at two or three times (it was) really very concerning I would say for all of us."

Additional reporting by Reuters.