Europe’s largest nuclear power plant faced new danger Thursday as Ukraine accused Russian forces of shelling the site — and the route a team of international inspectors were taking in a bid to secure its safety after weeks of growing alarm about a radiation disaster.
The United Nations mission vowed to press on, even as the two sides traded fresh accusations that the other was endangering its members as well as the plant’s nuclear reactors. But the team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency was delayed amid the fighting.
“The IAEA mission has been delayed on the Ukrainian-controlled side of the frontline for some three hours,” a spokesperson said in a statement sent by email.
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi “has personally negotiated with Ukrainian military authorities to be able to proceed and he remains determined that this important mission reaches the [Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant] today,” the spokesperson said.
Moscow officials blamed Kyiv for the eruption of fierce fighting around the plant, which is in southern Ukraine but under Russian occupation. Its defense ministry said Ukrainian troops had attempted a daring amphibious landing in an effort to seize back control of the plant and disrupt the U.N. mission.
NBC News could not immediately verify the claims of either side.