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The head of Ukraine’s nuclear energy company said he saw signs that Russia might leave the occupied nuclear power plant

Profile photo - Zaporizhzhya NPP during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict on October 14, 2022.
Profile photo – Zaporizhzhya NPP during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict on October 14, 2022.

The head of Ukraine‘s state-run nuclear energy company said on Sunday that there were signs that Russian forces might be ready to leave the huge Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, which they seized in March shortly after the invasion.

Such a move would be a major battlefield change in the partially occupied southeastern Zaporizhzhia region, where the front line has hardly changed for months. Repeated shelling around the plant raised fears of a nuclear catastrophe.

The head of Atomic Energy of Ukraine Peter Curtin said on state television: “In recent weeks, we have actually received information that there are indications that they may be ready to leave (the plant). ”

“First of all, there are numerous reports in the Russian media that it is worth vacating (the plant) and perhaps it is worth handing over control of (its) to (the International Atomic Energy Agency – IAEA),” he said, referring to the United Nations nuclear watchdog. “It gives the impression that they are packing their bags and stealing everything they can.”

Russia and Ukraine, the birthplace of the world’s worst Chornobyl nuclear accident in 1986, have repeatedly accused each other of shelling the Zaporizhzhya reactor, which no longer generates electricity, for months.

Asked if it was too early to talk about Russian troops leaving the plant, Curtin said on television: “It’s too early.” We haven’t seen it yet, but they’re preparing (leaving). ”

“All (Ukrainian) personnel are prohibited from passing through checkpoints and going to Ukrainian (controlled) territory.”

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The head of the IAEA met with the Russian delegation in Istanbul on November 23 to discuss the creation of a protected area around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant to prevent a nuclear catastrophe. The Zaporizhzhya NPP once supplied about one-fifth of Ukraine’s electricity.

The Russian news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying that a decision on the protected area should be made “fairly quickly” after the meeting.

Ukraine this month recaptured the southern city of Kherson and a chunk of land on the right bank of the Dnieper in the Kherson region in eastern Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

On Friday, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said three Ukrainian nuclear power plants in the government-controlled territory had been reconnected to the grid, two days after a Russian missile strike forced them to shut down for the first time in 40 years.

(This article is based on a Reuters report)

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