Invading Russian forces have been shelling the town of Enerhodar since 5 a.m. on Sept. 1 – the day of a visit by an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), local mayor Dmytro Orlov said in a Telegram messenger post.
“Enerhodar. Constant mortar shelling of the town has not stopped since 5 a.m. Machine gun fire can be heard,” he said.
According to Orlov, several civilian objects have been hit as a result of the shelling.
“There are casualties! We’re clarifying how many,” the mayor said.
“Please stay at home and be sure to follow the two-wall rule.”
The IAEA team arrived in Kyiv on Aug. 30, where they met with Ukrainian officials.
World leaders began discussing the possible visit of the IAEA mission to the occupied nuclear power plant at the beginning of August, when the shelling of the ZNPP became more frequent.
The United Nations declared its readiness to facilitate the visit of IAEA inspectors to Zaporizhzhya from Kyiv, but Russia insisted that the mission should not go through Kyiv.
Finally, on Aug. 19, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, in a conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, promised to allow the UN mission to the Zaporizhzhya NPP “under the conditions that were discussed.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in a conversation on Aug. 23 with his French counterpart confirmed Russia had given consent to the IAEA mission to go to the ZNPP.
Three days later it became known that the IAEA was preparing an emergency visit to the ZNPP.
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said he would head the mission.
Before that, Grossi held talks with Ukrainian diplomats in Vienna, Russian officials and Rosatom representatives in Istanbul and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris to discuss preparations.
“The presence of the IAEA will help stabilize the nuclear safety situation at the site and reduce the risk of a serious nuclear accident in Europe,” Grossi said.
Russian nuclear terrorism: What’s happening at the occupied Zaporizhzhya NPP?
The Zaporizhzhya NPP is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, and has been occupied by Russian forces since March 4. Several ZNPP facilities have been damaged by Russian shelling, and the station’s employees are being held captive by the occupying troops.
The Kremlin uses the facility as cover for its forces, as Ukraine is unable return fire due to the risk of causing a nuclear disaster. Ukraine says Russia itself fires on the territory of the plant in order to claim that it is being attacked by Ukraine.
Recently-emerged footage showed numerous Russian military vehicles parked inside the main turbine hall of the facility, some 150 meters away from the nearest reactor.
The head of the Zaporizhzhya regional military administration, Oleksandr Starukh, on Aug. 16 called on the residents of the nearby town of Enerhodar to evacuate due to the shelling of the ZNPP. He said that in the event of an accident, about 400,000 people would have to be evacuated from two neighboring oblasts.
Ukrainian nuclear operator Enerhoatom warned on Aug. 19 that Russia is planning to disconnect the facility from Ukraine’s power grid, which would put the reactor cooling system offline.
For the first time since the facility became operational, the ZNPP was disconnected from Ukraine’s power grid on Aug. 25. Three out of four connecting power lines at the ZNPP had previously been damaged by Russian troops stationed at the power plant.
The ZNPP was once again connected to Ukraine’s power grid on Aug. 26 and continues to generate electricity for the country.