Ukraine said the city of Enerhodar and the territory of Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant were hit by military attacks by the Russian forces, prior to a scheduled visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today. Energoatom said Russian shelling had forced the shutdown of one of the two operating reactors at the site, while Moscow said it had thwarted a Ukrainian attempt to seize the plant, which was captured by Russian forces in March but still run by Ukrainian staff.
Russia and Ukraine accused each other of trying to sabotage the mission of the IAEA to the plant in southern central Ukraine.
The IAEA team arrived at the plant today in a large convoy with a heavy presence of Russian soldiers nearby.
Dmytro Orlov, Mayor of Enerhodar added: “We can confirm that civilians have been directly affected and wounded by the attacks from Russian forces on Enerhodar this morning.
“The Russian army deployed automatic rifles equipped with shells, as well as military aviation tactics, that have impacted residential streets, such as Tsentralna, Voyiniv-Internatsionalistiv and Kurchatova, as well as private houses in the suburbs.
“Once again, we call upon the international community to condemn Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s sovereign land and continue to support our government in ensuring an effective and safe work environment for the IAEA mission.”
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is Ukrainian and the Ukrainians should “have it back in their control”.
After delivering a speech at Sizewell in Suffolk, Mr Johnson took questions from the media and was asked about the risks of the Zaporizhzhia plant in the Russian-controlled town of Enerhodar.
Mr Johnson said: “It’s clearly the objective of the Russians about which they are absolutely… explicit… they want to unplug it from the Ukrainian grid and plug it into the Russian grid.
“And there are much greater nuclear experts than me in this room, I’m told that that has all sorts of risks, doing something like that. We don’t want to take any risk with Zaporizhzhia.
“I think it’s important that Mr Grossi and the IAEA are allowed to get into it and do their inspection. But I’ve got to tell you I think that Zaporizhzhia is a Ukrainian plant and the Ukrainians should have it back in their control.”
A Reuters reporter in the nearby Russian-controlled town of Enerhodar said a residential building was struck by shelling, forcing people to take cover in a basement.
It was not possible to establish who had fired as soldiers ran and helicopters flew overhead.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was doing everything to ensure that the plant could operate safely, and for the IAEA inspectors to be able to complete their tasks.
Conditions at the nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, have been unravelling for weeks, with Moscow and Kyiv regularly trading blame for shelling in the vicinity and fuelling fears of a Chornobyl-style radiation disaster.
IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said early on Thursday in the city of Zaporizhzhia, 55 km (34 miles) from the plant, he was aware of “increased military activity in the area” but would press ahead with the plan to visit the facility and meet staff.
He said: “Having come so far, we are not stopping.”
The IAEA inspectors, wearing body armour and travelling in white, armoured land cruisers with UN markings on their sides, drove out of the city escorted by the police and were held at the first check point outside the city.