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UN agency to inspect Ukraine nuclear plant in urgent mission

KYIV — A U.N. nuclear watchdog team tripped on an urgent mission Monday to guard the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia atomic power plant in the centre of fighting in Ukraine, a long-awaited trip the planet hopes can help avoid a radioactive catastrophe.

The stakes couldn’t be higher for the band of International Atomic Energy Agency experts who’ll go to the plant in a country where in fact the 1986 Chernobyl disaster sent radiation through the entire region, shocked the planet and intensified a worldwide push from nuclear energy.

Lacking any exaggeration, this mission would be the hardest in the annals of IAEA,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.

Underscoring the urgency, Ukraine and Russia again accused one another of shelling the wider region round the nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, that was briefly knocked offline the other day. The dangers are so high that officials have begun offering anti-radiation iodine tablets to nearby residents.

In order to avoid a tragedy, IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi has sought access for months to the Zaporizhzhia plant, which Russian forces have occupied and Ukrainian workers have operated because the start of the six-month-old war.

Your day has come, Grossi tweeted Monday, adding that the Vienna-based IAEAs Support and Assistance Mission … is currently coming. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said the team, which Grossi heads, is scheduled to reach in Kyiv on Monday. In April, Grossi had headed an IAEA mission to Chernobyl, which Russian forces occupied earlier in the war.

The IAEA said in a statement that its team will undertake urgent safeguards activities, assess damage, determine the functionality of the plant’s security and safety systems, and measure the control room staff’s working conditions.

Ukraine’s nuclear energy agency, Energoatom, warned Monday of Russian attempts to hide their military usage of the plant.

The occupiers, finding your way through the arrival of the IAEA mission, increased strain on the personnel … to avoid them from disclosing proof the occupiers crimes at the plant and its own use as a military base, Energoatom said, adding that four plant workers were wounded in Russian shelling of the town their current address.

Ukraine accused Russia of new rocket and artillery strikes at or close to the plant, intensifying fears that the fighting might lead to an enormous radiation leak. Up to now, radiation levels at the facility, which includes six reactors, have already been reported to be normal.

Ukraine has alleged that Russia is actually holding the plant hostage, storing weapons there and launching attacks from around it, while Moscow accuses Ukraine of recklessly firing on the facility.

World leaders have called on the Russians to demilitarize the plant. Satellite images supplied by Maxar Technologies on Monday showed armored personnel carriers on a road close to the reactors, harm to a building’s roof also close to the reactors, and brush fires burning nearby.

Ukraine reported shelling in Nikopol, the town over the Dnieper River from the nuclear power plant, and said one individual was killed and five others were wounded. In Enerhodar, just a couple of kilometers from the plant, the citys Ukrainian mayor, Dmytro Orlov, blamed Russian shelling for injuries to at the very least 10 residents.

Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said in Stockholm he expects the IAEA mission to make a clear statement of facts, of violation of most nuclear, of nuclear safety protocols.” He added, “We realize that Russia is putting not merely Ukraine, but additionally the whole planet at threat at the chance of nuclear accident.”

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia will ensure security of the IAEA mission and called on other countries to improve strain on the Ukrainian side to force it to avoid threatening the European continent by shelling the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and surrounding areas.

On the weekend, Energoatom painted an ominous picture of the threats at the plant by issuing a map forecasting where radiation could spread.

Elsewhere on the battlefield, the Ukraine military claimed it had breached Russias first type of defense near Kherson just north of the Crimean Peninsula, an advance that could represent a strategic breakthrough if confirmed. Kherson may be the biggest Ukrainian city the Russians occupy, and reports about Ukrainian forces finding your way through a counteroffensive there and elsewhere in your community have circulated for weeks.

Russian-installed officials, citing Ukrainian rocket strikes, announced the evacuation of residents of nearby Nova Kakhovka, a city Kyivs forces frequently target, from their workplaces to bomb shelters on Monday. And in another Kherson region city, Berislav, Russian news agencies reported that Ukrainian shelling had damaged a church, a school along with other buildings.

However in a war rife with claims and counterclaims which are hard to verify independently, the Moscow-appointed regional leader of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, dismissed the Ukrainian assertion of an offensive in the Kherson region as false, noting that the Ukrainian forces have suffered heavy losses in your community. And Ukraines presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, cautioned against super-sensational announcements in regards to a counteroffensive.

The best amount of casualties — eight civilians killed and seven wounded — was reported in the eastern Donetsk region. Russian forces struck the cities of Sloviansk and Kostyantynivka overnight and the region’s Ukrainian governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, urged residents to evacuate immediately.

In Kharkiv, Ukraines second-largest city, cluster munitions hit Monday morning, regional governor Oleh Syniehubov reported.

Ukraines presidential office also reported heavy fighting and multiple Ukrainian strikes in the southern Kherson region, the majority of that your Russians occupy. Ukrainian forces have already been undertaking strikes on ammunition depots and Russian military positions in your community.

Andrew Katell contributed to the report from NY.

Follow APs coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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