Ukraine has appealed to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations secretary-general to “liberate” the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the head of the nuclear watchdog told on Thursday.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said in an interview with Becky Anderson that “the Ukraine government has effectively invited, indeed, appealed, to me and to the UN secretary-general to deploy efforts to liberate the nuclear power plant.”

“The Ukrainian government has requested us to come to perform an obligation,” he added. “The IAEA has to perform these inspections in Ukraine. It is not a matter of wanting or wishing, it is an obligation.”

The director-general told that inspections have not taken place for “a long time now” and “there is a lot of nuclear material there that needs to be inspected.”

Asked about whether a visit would legitimize Russia’s control of the plant, Grossi said, “It is absolutely incorrect. When I go there, I will be going there under the same agreement that Ukraine passed with the IAEA, not the Russian Federation. Ukraine!”

Earlier on Tuesday, Ukraine’s nuclear energy operator accused the IAEA head of legitimizing Russia’s occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, and of “lying” in claiming that Ukraine requested he travel to the plant. 

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