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IAEA team reaches Zaporizhzhia plant

September 1, 2022

The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency has left the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant after spending several hours at the site. He said experts from the UN agency would remain behind. Follow DW for the latest.

https://p.dw.com/p/4GID6
The IAEA motorcade arriving at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant
The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency arrived at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant — the largest in EuropeImage: Alexander Ermochenko/REUTERS

A team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arrived at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine on Thursday, Ukrainian state nuclear firm Energoatom said on Telegram.

The UN agency's head, Rafael Grossi, visited the site for several hours with his 14-strong team and said experts would maintain a continued presence at the facility. 

"We are not going anywhere. The IAEA is now there, it is at the plant and it is not moving — it's going to stay there," Grossi told reporters.

Ukraine's state nuclear company Energoatom said Grossi had left the plant on Thursday afternoon and that five of his colleagues remained behind, likely until September 3.

Meanwhile, both Russia and Ukraine have reported intensifying fighting around the site, with each side blaming the other for initiating the violence. 

"It is obvious that the plant and physical integrity of the plant has been violated several times," Grossi said, adding that IAEA experts would provide impartial assessments of what was happening on the ground.

"I worried, I worry and I will continue to be worried about the plant until we have a situation which is more stable, which is more predictable," he said. 

Grossi: IAEA 'to stay' at nuclear plant

Ukraine, Russia give different accounts of fighting

Both Ukrainian and Russian officials reported early-morning fighting in the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar where the power plant is located. 

The general staff of Ukraine's armed forces reported fighting near the plant early on Thursday, and Ukrainian regional governor Oleksandr Starukh said Russian troops were shelling the route the IAEA planned to use to approach the site. 

Shortly thereafter, the Energoatom company operating the nuclear plant said one of the two operational reactors on site had been shut down "as a result of another mortar shelling by Russian ... forces at the site." The other reactor was still in service, it said.

Meanwhile, Russia's Defense Ministry and a Russian-backed local official said Ukrainian forces had launched an operation seeking to reclaim the power plant. The ministry said up to 60 Ukrainian troops had crossed the Dnipro River, which divides territory held by the two sides, in boats at around 6 a.m. local time, calling the alleged operation a "provocation" aimed to disrupt the IAEA visit. 

The ministry statement said "measures had been taken" to destroy the opposing troops, including use of military aircraft. It also accused Ukraine of shelling the meeting point of the IAEA delegation and the plant itself.

The Zaporizhzhia plant was captured by Russian forces in March, but has remained online, for the most part, with Ukrainian employees operating it since then. Both sides have repeatedly accused each other of shelling the area around the facility in recent weeks. 

The IAEA had been trying to arrange a visit to the site for weeks. On Wednesday, Grossi said his team had received "explicit" guarantees from both sides for their visit, which he expected to last a few days. 

Here's a look at some of the other major news in Russia's invasion of Ukraine on September 1. 

HRW report: Russia, affiliated forces 'forcibly transferring' Ukrainian civilians

Human Rights Watch published a report on Thursday that it says documents forced transfers of Ukrainian civilians, some of them fleeing the fighting, either to the Russian Federation or to Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia. 

The 71-page report titled "'We had no choice': 'Filtration' and the crime of forcibly transferring Ukrainian civilians to Russia," interviewed 54 people who either went to Russia, went through filtration, had relatives or friends sent to Russia, or who had supported Ukrainians trying to leave Russia. HRW said most had fled the Mariupol area, and several were transferred from the Kharkiv area. 

According to HRW, "the transfers are a serious violation of the laws of war that constitute war crimes and potential crimes against humanity."

"Ukrainian civilians should not be left with no choice but to go to Russia," said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at HRW and the report's co-author. "And no one should be forced to undergo an abusive screening process to reach safety." 

Russian and Russian-affiliated officials organized transport for civilians fleeing the besieged port city of Mariupol earlier in the year. HRW said they told some civilians they had no choice but to stay in Russian-occupied areas or go to Russia, telling them they should "forget about" going to Ukrainian territory. According to the report, those without the financial means to organize their own transport to their destination of choice were at particular risk. 

Putin visits Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been visiting Russia's exclave of Kaliningrad, which lies wedged between NATO member countries.

Bordering Lithuania and Poland, both of which have strongly backed Ukraine in the conflict with Moscow, the heavily militarized zone on the coast of the Baltic Sea is not directly connnected to Russia. 

On his visit, Putin met Kaliningrad school students to mark the start of the school year, answering questions on topics that included the economy, space exploration and Moscow's war in Ukraine.

The trip came amid soaring tensions between Moscow and Brussels after the EU slapped Russia with several rounds of sanctions over its campaign in Ukraine. 

In June, Russia clashed with Lithuania after it banned the rail transit of sanctioned goods from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad.

After threats and protest from Moscow, the EU said Lithuania must allow Russian goods to be moved — with the exception of weapons.

Rudder failure of ship with Ukrainian grain halts Bosphorus traffic

A cargo ship with 3,000 tons of Ukrainian corn transiting to Ravenna, Italy, halted traffic in the Bosphorus strait around 1800 GMT due to a rudder failure a time when the ship was anchored.

The 173-meter-long Lady Zehma had been cleared by the Joint Coordination Center operated by the UN, Turkey, Ukraine and Russia in Istanbul after a grain export deal was reached following months of port closures after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The Lady Zehma had departed from the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk earlier in the week.

The Bosphorus traffic shutdown comes after the first shipment of Ukrainian grain since the war started reached an African port earlier in the week.

Kremlin criticizes suspension of visa facilitation agreement with the EU

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the EU's decision to suspend the 2007 visa facilitation deal with Russia following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine is "bad for Russians."

"It will take longer and be more difficult to obtain visas," Peskov told reporters. He added it would "make the situation more difficult for Europeans as well."

Peskov complained it was "another ridiculous decision in a series of ongoing absurdities."

On Wednesday, EU foreign ministers suspended the visa facilitation agreement, though the EU did not throw down a blanket ban.  Some EU nations on Russia's border have already undertaken the decision to ban or limit visas for Russian nationals. 

Russian vacationers can apply for a Schengen visa typically valid across 26 EU countries and Switzerland and Norway that is valid for up to 90 days in a 180-day rolling period. Last year, Russians made up the biggest group of Schengen visa applications, with over half a million Russians applying.

Lavrov warns against attacking Russia's forces in Transnistria

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned against any actions that would endanger Russian forces in the Transnistria region of Moldova where Russia claims they are on a "peacekeeping" mission. Lavrov said any attack on forces there would be viewed as an attack on Russia.

In response, Oleh Nikolenko, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said,  "Lavrov says Moscow will spare no effort in defending the Russian speaking population in Moldova. We have seen that."

"This was the exact false pretext Russia used to justify its invasion of Ukraine," Nikolenko added. "We express our full support to Moldova's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Lavrov's address at Russia's top foreign policy school highlighted concerns that Moldova could be the next target for a Russian "special military operation," which is how Moscow describes its invasion of Ukraine.  

Moldova lies outside EU and NATO. It was dominated by Russian-backed leaders in the past and has a "frozen conflict" with Russian-backed forces existing in a gray zone inside its borders.

Since 1992, Russia has stationed "peacekeepers" in Transnistria following a three month-long conflict that left Transnistria outside Chisinau's control.

Moldova's Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested a "clarification" over Lavrov's comments summoning Moscow's charge d'affaires. 

British man in Ukraine killed, sister says

A 48-year-old from Norfolk in southeastern England has died serving with Ukrainian forces, his sister said in an online fundraising post

Lorna Mackintosh said her brother Craig died "in the line of duty" on August 24, having volunteered to serve as a medic with a militia attached to Ukraine's military.

As of late Thursday morning, Mackintosh had raised just under 10,000 British pounds (just under €11,500 or $11,500) on an online fundraising site hoping to raise funds to bring his body back to the UK. 

"This selfless man is currently stranded in a morgue in Ukraine and there is no help to get him home," she wrote, saying it would cost around 4,000 pounds to have his body repatriated. 

A spokesperson for the British Foreign Office told the PA news agency: "We are supporting the family of a British man who has died in Ukraine and are in contact with the local authorities." 

Macron vows to prevent Russia from winning the war

French President Emmanuel Macron said France would continue its humanitarian, economic and military support of Ukraine in order to prevent Russia from winning its war.

Macron told French ambassadors in a speech at the Elysee palace, "We cannot let Russia militarily win the war."

He said helping Ukraine to win militarily or achieve "a negotiated peace" was the ultimate goal.

Macron added, "We must get prepared for a long war," as he vowed to "keep talking" to Russia despite criticism from certain countries.

"We must not let Europe get divided," he said.

Finland to donate €8.3 million in defense materiel

Finland will donate €8.3 million ($8.24 million) worth of defense equipment, bringing the tally of defense donations from Finland to Ukraine to €92.3 mllion, the spokesperson for Finland's Ministry of Defense said.

In a statement, Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen said, "Ukraine's defensive fight continues, the need for aid remains high."

No description of what would be donated or a timetable was provided due to security considerations.

More on the conflict in Ukraine 

Just how important is the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant for Ukraine? It's Europe's largest nuclear power plant, but can the electricity grid function without it? DW's Ukrainian department explains the situation.

What impact has the war in Ukraine had on Taiwan and its crisis preparations for a potential Chinese invasion? With tensions heightened, partly following the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month, we look at the new steps Taipei has been taking such as increasing its numbers of reserve soldiers.

And in case you missed it, EU foreign ministers on Wednesday agreed to suspend the bloc's visa facilitation with Moscow in response to the invasion of Ukraine. On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the decision "ridiculous" and said it would "make the situation more difficult for Europeans as well." 

ar, msh/wd (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)