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Ukraine's energy minister: IAEA mission a step towards 'de-occupying' nuclear plant

·2-min read

By Tom Balmforth

ZAPORIZHZHIA (Reuters) -The IAEA mission to the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine is a step towards "de-occupying and demilitarising" the site, Ukraine's energy minister told Reuters in a interview on Wednesday.

Speaking in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, only 55 km (34 miles) away from the plant, German Galushchenko also said it was crucial for the mission, headed by IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, to be allowed to speak to staff at the site.

"It is important from our view... that the mission can speak to the staff, and get the real information, not Russian information, on what is inside," Galushchenko said.

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant, the largest in Europe, was captured by Moscow in March but is still operated by Ukrainian staff under the supervision of Russian troops.

Grossi, also speaking to reporters on Wednesday, said the agency's visit was a "technical mission" that aimed to prevent a nuclear accident. Asked about plans for a demilitarised zone at the plant, he said that was "a matter of political will".

"But my mission - I think it's very important to establish (this) with all clarity - my mission is a technical mission," he said.

The plant's territory, which is less than 10 km away from Ukrainian positions across the Dnipro river, has come under repeated shelling over the past month, with Kyiv and Moscow accusing each other of being responsible.

"We have soldiers there, we have heavy vehicles there, so we need to check the real situation there from the point of nuclear safety and security," Galushchenko added.

The minister said that the mission should bring closer the withdrawal of Russian troops from the plant.

"This should be a step (towards) deoccupying and demilitarising the station,” he told Reuters.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; Writing by Max Hunder; Editing by Gareth Jones and Jan Harvey)