A convoy of armored SUVs of experts has moved towards an active battlefield.

KYIV, Ukraine – Experts from the United Nations nuclear watchdog are expected to visit the challenging Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on Thursday, a day after they embarked on one of the missions. the most complicated mission in the agency’s history.

The team, which included 14 experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency, left Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, early Wednesday morning in an armored SUV convoy and headed south. Hours after they left Kyiv, a Russian official said Moscow would support plans for inspectors to establish a regular presence at the facility.

The plant, controlled by Russian forces but operated by Ukrainian engineers, is located in the middle of an active battlefield, where frequent shelling has raised fears of a nuclear disaster.

On Wednesday afternoon, nuclear inspectors arrived in the Ukrainian controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, located across the Dnipro River from the plant, and they are expected to enter Russian-administered territory on Thursday morning.

“As you know, we have a very, very important task there to undertake, to assess the actual situation there, to help stabilize the situation as much as possible,” said IAEA Director General Rafael M. Grossi, told reporters in Kyiv. before departure.

Grossi said the mission had been secured from both Russian and Ukrainian militaries, although dangers remained. “We are going to a war zone,” he said, “we are going to occupied territory.”

Russian officials have ignore the pleas to withdraw from the base to create a demilitarized zone around it. Fighting is intensifying in the south, where Ukraine is escalating attacks in what could be part of the wider counterattack.

It is unclear how long inspectors will stay at the plant, or how long Moscow’s forces will allow them to pass through checkpoints into Russian-held territory.

Moscow’s special envoy to the IAEA, Mikhail Ulyanov, wrote in a tweet that Russia “welcomes” the agency’s goal of establishing a regular presence for international inspectors at the plant, although it remains unclear when such a mission will begin.

However, earlier the same day, the head of the Russian-appointed Zaporizhzhia region, Yevhen Balytskyi, said the visit was expected to last only one day, calling the delegation’s stated objective for the visit ambiguous. .

“They have one day to check the operation of the plant,” he said, adding, “If they say that certain factors need to be involved, we will be able to do so.”

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