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Watchdog: No signs of mines, explosives at endangered Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant

Members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspect the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on September 1, 2022. File Photo by IAEA Press Office/UPI
Members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspect the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on September 1, 2022. File Photo by IAEA Press Office/UPI | License Photo

July 2 (UPI) -- The International Atomic Energy Agency, a global nuclear watchdog, said Friday that no signs of mines or explosives have been found around the endangered Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine.

The IAEA issued the statement after Ukraine's Directorate of Military Intelligence said in a statement last week that Russia had "finished preparation" for a "terrorist attack" on Europe's largest nuclear power plant.

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Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine's military intelligence chief, had claimed a cooling pond at the nuclear facility had been mined by Russian troops and that the Kremlin had ordered occupants of the facility to drive vehicles loaded with explosive to four of the facility's six power units.

IAEA investigators inspected the facilities Friday and said they have "so far found no visible indications of mines or other explosives."

Investigators still need additional access to carry out further such checks at the site, IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi said.

"We take all such reports very seriously and I have instructed our experts at the site to look into this matter and request the access they need for doing their job," Grossi said. "Until now they have not observed any mines or other explosives. Further access will still be needed."

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Grossi did state that mines had previously been placed inside and around the facility.

In May, the Security Council of the United Nations -- of which Russia is a permanent member - established five basic principles for the protection of the power plant.

The U.N. Security Council established that there should be no attacks from or against the plant and that it cannot be used as storage or a base for heavy weaponry such as rocket launchers and tanks amid Russian President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine.

Last year, Russia and Ukraine were engaged in a blame game after powerful explosions rocked the nuclear facility, escalating fears of a nuclear catastrophe.

Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine's permanent ambassador to the United Nations, told UPI in an interview last year that a disaster at the nuclear facility "can be much worse than Chernobyl." He also suggested that the Kremlin has been "desperate" to control the narrative around the nuclear power plant.

Meanwhile, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has warned of a "nuclear showdown" with Europe over the West's response to the war in Ukraine and has said that nuclear weapons from Russia have arrived in Ukraine's neighbor.

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