Russia on Friday accused Ukraine of attempting to install spies at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspects the plant’s security amid a barrage of shelling.
“Ukrainian special services, on the orders of [Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy], tried to introduce their spies and saboteurs working under journalistic cover into the IAEA delegation to the Zaporizhzhia NPP,” Vladimir Rogov, a Moscow-appointed regional official told Russian-state owned media outlet RIA.
Rogov claimed the attempt was stopped Friday and Ukrainian journalists were barred from entering the plant.
Fox News has not been able to independently verify Rogov’s claims or confirm if all Ukrainian journalists were barred from entering the plant as the IAEA returned to the ZNPP for its second day of inspections.
Russian forces have occupied the plant since March, though Ukrainian technicians have continued to operate the nuclear station under threat of physical and verbal abuse.
One former worker at the ZNPP told Fox News this week that he personally knew two colleagues who were “arrested” by Russian forces and held in the basement of the plant where they were then tortured.
At least one of the technicians he referred to was accused of “spotting” for the Ukrainian military – an accusation the source said he did not believe.
Russian media on Friday said that a delegation from the state-owned nuclear energy agency Rosatom, toured the power station with IAEA officials and showed the damage caused by shelling.
Moscow has blamed Ukraine for the repeated shelling that has jeopardized the integrity and security of Europe’s largest nuclear plant.
Ukraine in return has accused Russia of attempting to provoke a response in the area by staging attacks on the plant where its troops are stationed and by hitting civilian targets in the neighboring town, including three kindergartens on Thursday.
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, who has lead a team of 12 other men and one woman to inspect the plant’s security, told reporters the ZNPP had been clearly damaged “several times.”
“It is obvious that the plant and the physical integrity of the plant has been violated,” he said Friday according to a Reuters report. “This is something that cannot continue to happen.”
Grossi said his team will stay in place despite the danger and will provide an impartial assessment of what is happening on the ground.
Ukrainian and Western officials have called on Russia to demilitarize the area in order to prevent a nuclear catastrophe.