Thursday, U.N. nuclear experts are scheduled to visit the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in the south of Ukraine to inspect any damage caused by shelling, which has generated furious recriminations and concerns of a global radiation disaster.
The situation at Europe's largest nuclear reactor has been deteriorating for weeks, with Moscow and Kyiv trading blame for bombardment in the region. Recent satellite imagery from the private U.S. company Maxar Technologies revealed several charred holes on the roof of a building near the plant's reactors.
The mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) landed in the city of Zaporizhzhia, 55 kilometers (34 miles) from the site, on Wednesday, and Ukraine's defense ministry stated that a visit to the facility was scheduled for Thursday.
IAEA chief Rafael Grossi told reporters in Zaporizhya, Ukraine, that the mission aims to prevent a nuclear accident.
Russian-appointed officials have claimed that the team from the U.N. nuclear watchdog would have only one day to assess the plant, but the mission is planned for a longer timeframe.
"If we are able to establish a permanent or ongoing presence, the duration will be extended. However, this first phase will require several days "Grossi remarked.
On Wednesday, fighting was reported near the factory and afield, with both sides claiming victories on the battlefield amid a renewed Ukrainian effort to regain territory in the south.
Referring to the Ukrainian offensive, Oleksiy Arestovych, an assistant to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said, "It is a prolonged process, because we value people,"
There will be no rapid achievement.
In the early weeks of the almost six-month-long conflict, Russia took substantial portions of southern Ukraine close to the Black Sea coast, notably the Kherson region north of the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula.
The general command of the Ukrainian armed forces said that Ukraine withstood Russian strikes on the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka, located north of the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk.
The general staff noted on Wednesday that pro-Russian forces have focused on Bakhmut in their drive to extend control over the Donbas area, the industrial hub of eastern Ukraine.
Russia has disputed claims of Ukrainian advancement and asserted that its troops had defeated Ukrainian forces.
24 February, Russia launched a "special military operation" to clear Ukraine of nationalists and safeguard Russian-speaking communities.
Ukraine and the West see Russia's activities as an unprovoked war of aggression that has displaced millions, murdered thousands, and reduced cities to rubble.
The fighting has also increased fears of a Chornobyl-like radioactive disaster at the Zaporizhzhia plant, captured by Russia in March but still staffed by Ukrainian personnel.
The city authorities of Zaporizhzhya have been performing emergency drills in preparation for a radioactive leak.
A video published by the regional state administration on Wednesday depicts employees in protective jackets and breathing masks utilizing radiation-detecting devices on automobiles and individuals.
German Galushchenko, Ukraine's energy minister, stated on Wednesday that the IAEA visit to the plant is a step toward "deoccupying and demilitarizing" the site, even though his administration cannot implement any recommendations.
Galushchenko added, "If they draw up a report about violations and give it to Ukraine to fix them, we won't be able to do that as long as the Russian military is there,"
However, Russia has stated that it has no current plans to remove its forces.
According to Ukraine, Russia has been using the plant as a shield to attack Ukrainian villages and cities, knowing that it will be difficult for Ukraine to retaliate. It further claims that the Russian military shelled the factory.
Russia denies the allegations and asserts that the plant's radiation levels are normal. It also accuses Ukrainians of attempting to incite uproar to create a demilitarized zone by targeting the facility.
Grossi stated that this position was a political concern for the conflicting nations.
Russia had claimed that it welcomed the IAEA's declared desire to establish a permanent presence at the plant, but the head of the Russian-installed administration in the area told Interfax that the inspectors "must see the work of the station in one day."
Away from Ukraine, Russia halted gas deliveries via Europe's most important supply line on Wednesday, citing the necessity for repairs.
Separately, European Union foreign ministers resolved to make it more costly and time-consuming for Russians to obtain visas to enter the EU but refrained from imposing a ban.