UN nuclear chief heads to Kyiv to discuss security zone around Zaporizhzhia site

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UN nuclear chief heads to Kyiv to discuss security zone around Zaporizhzhia site

VIENNA: UN nuclear agency chief on Wednesday said he was traveling to Kyiv to discuss creating a security zone around Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his government to take it over.

Kyiv and Moscow have accused each other of shelling near the site for months, triggering fears of a nuclear catastrophe similar to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Soviet Ukraine.

On his way to Kyiv for important meetings, International Atomic Energy Agency head Rafael Grossi wrote on Twitter that the need for a protection zone around the site was more urgent than ever. He posted pictures showing him boarding a train with the Ukrainian Railways logo.

Russian forces have since March occupied the Zaporizhzhia power plant, Europe's largest.

Grossi, who visited the plant last month, has advocated for setting up a security perimeter that both sides would commit not to attack.

A decree by Putin on Wednesday said that the Russian government would make sure the nuclear facilities at the plant are integrated as federal property. The Zaporizhzhia facility is situated near the front line in the southern Ukrainian region of the same name, one of four Russian-occupied regions Moscow formally annexed last week.

The annexations followed referendums denounced by the West and Kyiv as a sham.

In response to Grossi's proposal for a security zone, Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia's permanent representative to international organisations in Vienna, said: "We fully share this goal. The question is how it is going to be implemented. He added that Rafael Grossi has some practical ideas. They will be discussed in Kyiv tomorrow and Russia next week. Ulyanov, speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of the OPEC oil-producing nations in the Austrian capital, expressed doubts whether Grossi would visit Zaporizhzhia during his trip.

He said that the security situation is rather volatile and that it would take time to prepare for another visit by Grossi.