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Ukraine PM says IAEA mission will 'secure' nuclear plants

Ukraine PM says IAEA mission will 'secure' nuclear plants

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Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said Tuesday that the UN nuclear watchdog IAEA agreed to dispatch permanent teams to the country's nuclear plants, including the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia plant, a hotspot of fighting.

Ukraine's atomic sites have been a key concern throughout the nearly 10 months of the conflict, with attacks around several facilities -- including Chernobyl -- raising fears of a nuclear incident.

"The missions are aimed at securing the plants and recording all attempts to externally influence them, in particular shelling by the Russian aggressor," Shmygal said in a statement on social media following a meeting in Paris with Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The prime minister said the IAEA's teams would deploy to plants at Zaporizhzhia, Rivne, Khmelnytskyi, Pivdennoukrainska and Chernobyl without specifying a time frame.

Shmygal added that during the meeting with Grossi he had repeated a call for the "demilitarisation" of the plant in Zaporizhzhia, describing it as a priority for Ukraine leader Volodymyr Zelensky.

The IAEA has already deployed teams to Zaporizhzhia, where Russian troops have seized control of the plant and claimed to have annexed the region into Russia.

"The plant is still in a very precarious situation," Grossi said ahead of the meeting.

"We have started to explore ways to deepen this protection and above all to reach an agreement which will have to involve the Russian side, obviously, to protect the plant," Grossi said ahead of the meeting, referring to the Zaporizhzhia plant.

Ukraine last week accused Russian troops of detaining two senior employees at the Zaporizhzhia plant -- Europe's largest nuclear facility -- after a "brutal beating".

Regular Russian shelling in recent months of Ukraine's energy grid has disrupted the supply of power to and from the plants, adding to electricity outages and concerns over their safety.