Russia has agreed to allow inspectors access to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant after a period of sharply rising tensions surrounding the state of the facility.
Russian forces took control of the nuclear power plant immediately after invading Ukraine and have held it since early March. The two sides continued fighting over control of the plant, raising international concern about an imminent disaster.
Moscow had resisted calls to allow inspectors access to the plant in order to verify that it remained safe, but Russian President Vladimir Putin changed his mind on Friday following a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Putin said that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts would have support from both Russian and French authorities to provide “the necessary assistance,” the BBC reported.
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“In this highly volatile and fragile situation, it is of vital importance that no new action is taken that could further endanger the safety and security of one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants,” said Rafael Grossi, director-general of the IAEA.
Russia had started to use the power plant as a base from which to launch missile strikes at neighboring cities, once again stirring concern from international authorities about potential nuclear disaster. Some families started to evacuate the area, according to the Washington Post.
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Ukrainian officials raised concerns ahead of the weekend that Russia might cut off power from Europe’s largest nuclear plant, putting both sides on edge for increased provocation. Russian diplomats submitted a letter to the United Nations accusing Ukrainians of firing upon the power plant.
“There is information that the Russian occupation forces are planning to shut down the power blocks and disconnect them from the power supply lines to the Ukrainian power system in the near future,” Ukrainian nuclear power agency Energoatom said in a Friday statement, first reported by Reuters.
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“The potential threat from Europe’s largest nuclear power plant could be ten times greater than the scale of the Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters,” the agency added.
Russian officials have completely rejected moves to demilitarize the power plant despite granting access to inspectors. Russia’s foreign ministry said Friday that such a move would only leave the plant “more vulnerable.”
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Russians have also denied keeping any weapons onsite at the plant.
G3 Box News’ Caitlin McFall contributed to this report.