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Ukraine’s nuclear chief says he sees signs Russia may leave occupied plant – SABC News

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The head of Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear power company said on Sunday that there are signs that Russian troops may be preparing to leave the massive Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, which they seized in March shortly after the invasion.

Such a move would be a major change on the battlefield in the partially occupied southeastern Zaporozhye region, where the front line has barely moved for months. Repeated shelling around the plant raised fears of a nuclear disaster.

“In recent weeks, we have actually received information that there are signs that they may be preparing to leave (the plant),” Energoatom head Petro Kotin said on national television.

“First of all, there are a lot of reports in the Russian media that (the plant) should be abandoned and maybe control (of it) should be handed over (to the International Atomic Energy Agency – IAEA),” he said. he, referring to the United Nations nuclear watchdog. “It looks like they’re packing their bags and stealing whatever they can.”

Russia and Ukraine, the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in Chernobyl in 1986, have for months repeatedly accused each other of shelling the Zaporizhia reactor complex, which no longer produces energy.

When asked whether it is too early to say that Russian troops will leave the plant, Kotin said on TV: “It is too early. We don’t see it now, but they are getting ready (to leave).”

“All (Ukrainian) personnel are prohibited from passing checkpoints and entering the territory (controlled by Ukraine).”

The head of the IAEA met on November 23 in Istanbul with a Russian delegation to discuss the creation of a protective zone around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant to prevent a nuclear disaster. Previously, Zaporozhye supplied about a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity.

Russia’s RIA news agency, citing Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rabkov, said a day after the meeting that a decision on the safe zone should be made “quite soon.”

This month, Ukraine recaptured the southern city of Kherson and a piece of land on the right bank of the Dnieper in the Kherson region, which is located in the east of the Zaporozhye province.

The UN nuclear watchdog said on Friday that Ukraine’s three nuclear plants in the government-controlled territory were back online two days after Russian missile fire forced them to shut down for the first time in 40 years.

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