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U.N. watchdog: No evidence of explosives at Ukraine nuclear plant

Rafael Mariano Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Wednesday experts did not find evidence of mines or explosives at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine but they require more access to confirm. File Photo by Christian Bruna/EPA-EFE
1 of 3 | Rafael Mariano Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Wednesday experts did not find evidence of mines or explosives at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine but they require more access to confirm. File Photo by Christian Bruna/EPA-EFE

July 5 (UPI) -- The United Nations nuclear watchdog on Wednesday said it did not find evidence of mines or other explosives planted at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant as Russia and Ukraine accused each other of planning to sabotage the facility.

In a statement, the International Atomic Energy Agency said it found "no visible indications of mines or explosives" at the nuclear power plant -- the largest in Europe -- after inspecting sections of the perimeter and the large cooling pond, as well as conducting "regular walkdowns" at the site.

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IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi, however, said the agency's experts have requested additional access to areas including the rooftops of reactor units 3 and 4, as well as parts of the turbine halls and the cooling system at the plant to confirm no explosives have been planted.

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"With military tension and activities increasing in the region where this major nuclear power plant is located, our experts must be able to verify the facts on the ground," Grossi said. "Their independent and objective reporting would help clarify the current situation at the site, which is crucial at a time like this, with unconfirmed allegations and counter allegations."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of placing "objects resembling explosives" on parts of the plant's structure.

"The whole world must now realize that common security depends entirely on global attention to the actions of the occupiers at the plant. Russia must clearly realize that the world sees what scenarios terrorists are preparing for, and the world is ready to respond," Zelensky said in an address Tuesday.

Zelensky implied that allied governments were also aware of the situation he described at the plant via their own intelligence services.

"Radiation is a threat to everyone in the world, and the nuclear power plant must be fully protected from any radiation incidents. Today is exactly 16 months since the Russian troops have been in full control of the territory and facilities of the Zaporizhzhia NPP. Different countries have their own intelligence and other capacities to know exactly what is going on and what is to blame," Zelensky said.

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"Now we have information from our intelligence that the Russian troops have placed objects resembling explosives on the roof of several power units of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Perhaps to simulate an attack on the plant. Perhaps they have some other scenario. But in any case, the world sees -- can't but see -- that the only source of danger to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is Russia and no one else," he said.

Zelensky invoked the destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam, which Ukraine has blamed on Russia.

"Unfortunately, there was no timely large-scale response to the terrorist attack on the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant. And this may incite the Kremlin to commit new evil," he said.

The Ukrainian Health Ministry issued an advisory for citizens in the case of a radioactive event.

"Tightly wrap your suitcase or backpack with food wrap or tape. This will greatly facilitate their deactivation process at sanitary posts. RESPECT! If you are in a radiation emergency zone, you can only leave buildings following proper instructions from authorities. Local authorities will post the location of evacuation points and safest travel routes if you evacuate with your own vehicle. Follow the instructions and remain calm," the Health Ministry said in a statement posted to Facebook on Tuesday.

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The Russian-backed nuclear power company Rosenergoatom in turn accused Ukraine of preparing an attack on the facility.

"Under cover of darkness overnight on July 5, the Ukrainian military will try to attack the Zaporizhzhia station using long-range precision equipment and kamikaze attack drones," said Rosenergoatom adviser Renat Karchaa, according to local Russian media.

Russian officials also accused the Ukrainian government of threatening to "sabotage" the facility.

"The situation is quite tense because there is indeed a great threat of sabotage by the Kyiv regime, which would be catastrophic in its consequences," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. "The Kyiv regime has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to do anything. Therefore, all measures are being taken to counter such a threat."

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials have cast doubt on claims from the Russian government that they have placed nuclear weapons in Belarus.

"It is necessary to create special conditions for the storage of nuclear munitions, to deploy a base for their maintenance. This is a very complex technological process," said Ukrainian General Staff Deputy Chief Oleksii Hromov, according to the Kyiv Independent.

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