As fierce combat raged throughout southern Ukraine on Tuesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky met with top UN nuclear inspectors in Kyiv ahead of their visit to evaluate the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, according to his office.
Rafael Grossi, the chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and a 14-person team arrived in Kyiv late on Monday in preparation for a visit to the Zaporizhzhia plant, the largest nuclear facility in Europe that has been under Russian military control since early March.
“This is probably one of the top-priority questions regarding the safety of Ukraine and the world today,” Zelensky said, calling for the “immediate de-militarisation of the plant” and its transfer to “full Ukrainian control”.
As per Ukraine’s nuclear agency Energoatom, the plant came under further shelling over the weekend, with Moscow and Kyiv trading accusations for the strikes near the complex of six nuclear reactors that is situated on the banks of the Dnipro River.
In the meantime, a fierce battle raged throughout the nearby Kherson region of the south as Ukrainian forces launched a significant counteroffensive “in various directions.”
Also Read: Xi Jinping’s ‘zero-covid’ policy faces rare public criticism
At the beginning of the invasion six months ago, Moscow’s forces grabbed the majority of the Black Sea-bordering Kherson area, including its provincial capital of the same name.
Since the fighting has virtually ceased in the eastern Donbas region, commentators have predicted for weeks that fighting will move south to end the standoff before winter.
Tuesday also saw further Russian attacks on Kharkiv’s centre, which resulted in at least five fatalities and seven injuries. However, the southern counteroffensive continued to receive most of the focus.
As per a report made on Tuesday by the Russian defence ministry, Ukraine’s southern counterattack resulted in “large-scale losses” of more than 1,200 soldiers and 150 military vehicles.
(with inputs from agencies)