International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors are expected to go to Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeast Ukraine sometime this week amid renewed shelling at the Russian-held facility and mounting fears over a potential nuclear accident — which has seen Ukrainian officials make iodine pills available to residents.
This comes as Ukraine forces prepare for a counteroffensive in the south, according to United States officials.
“Shaping” operations begin: Ukraine’s forces are preparing the battlefield for a significant Ukrainian counteroffensive, two senior US officials told CNN. Shaping operations are standard military practice prior to an offensive and involve striking weapons systems, command and control, ammunition depots and other targets to prepare the battlefield for planned advances. According to the officials, the US believes the much-anticipated counteroffensive will include a combination of air and ground operations.
IAEA inspectors heading in: A team from the IAEA — the UN nuclear watchdog — is on its way to Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and will be there “later this week,” IAEA Chief Rafael Mariano Grossi tweeted Monday. The mission will assess damage to the plant’s facilities, evaluate the working conditions of the staff and perform urgent safeguard activities. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the international community should demand Russia’s withdrawal from the plant so as to ensure nuclear security. The Kremlin welcomed the news of the visit, saying the IAEA mission will enter Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant from the Ukrainian side, but Russia will ensure its safety on the territory occupied by the Russian army.
Renewed shelling: The city of Orikhiv in the Zaporizhzhia region suffered more than 200 attacks in a six-hour time span, say Ukrainian officials. Shelling also occurred in the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar, close to the nuclear plant, on Sunday night, Russian and Ukrainian officials said — with each side blaming the other for the attacks.
Close call: Shelling in the vicinity of the Zaporizhzhia plant over the past few days hit a “special building” located just 100 meters from its reactor buildings, IAEA said Sunday. The nuclear agency’s chief Grossi said safety systems at the plant remain operational, there has been no increase in radiation levels, radioactivity levels are within a normal range, there is no indication of hydrogen leakage and the plant has continued access to off-site electricity.
Iodine pills: It emerged over the weekend that Zaporizhzhia city authorities made iodine tablets available to residents as concern grows over a possible accident. The pills protect users against radioactive iodine and help prevent thyroid cancer in case of a nuclear accident.
Dugina murder: Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has accused a second suspect in the murder of Darya Dugina, who was a Russian political commentator and the daughter of prominent ultranationalist ideologue Alexander Dugin. CNN is unable to independently verify the FSB claims of those who perpetrated the killing and is therefore not naming the two suspects at this time. Ukraine has denied any involvement in Dugina’s killing, calling the FSB claims fiction.