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Ukraine says situation deteriorating at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

FILE PHOTO: A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant outside Enerhodar

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine's energy minister said on Friday the situation at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station was deteriorating because of the psychological state of its Ukrainian staff and the condition of equipment.

The Ukrainian staff have remained at the plant in southeastern Ukraine since Russian forces captured it last March, soon after Moscow's invasion.

The nuclear plant, Europe's largest, has repeatedly come under fire, raising fears of a nuclear disaster. Each side blames the other for the shelling.

"The situation is indeed deteriorating. It is getting worse not only because of the mental state of the remaining Ukrainian specialists but also due to the condition of the equipment," Energy Minister German Galushchenko told Ukrainian television.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, is trying to set up a safe zone around the facility.

The IAEA says it has a permanent presence of up to four experts at Zaporizhzhia but IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, who visited Ukraine this week, has said he is worried the world is becoming complacent about the dangers.

Ukraine's start nuclear energy company, Energoatom, has said that Russian forces have continued to build military fortifications around the nuclear power units at the station.

It has also said the Russians at the station are unable to start up the power units because of a shortage of staff and that about 1,500 Ukrainian specialists have been barred from entering after refusing to sign contracts with Russian entities.

(Reporting by Olena Harmash, Editing by Timothy Heritage)