The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said it had begun inspections in Ukraine as part of “independent verification” of Russian allegations Kyiv is producing so-called dirty bombs.
Inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have “begun – and would soon complete verification activities at two locations in Ukraine”, the agency said in a statement on Monday.
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IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said he would later this week provide “his initial conclusions about the latest verification activities at the two sites”, the statement added.
The inspections follow a written request from the Ukrainian government to send IAEA teams there.
Russia has accused Ukraine of preparing to use dirty bombs against Moscow’s troops. Ukrainian authorities have strongly denied the allegation as an attempt to distract attention from Moscow’s own alleged plans to detonate a dirty bomb in order to justify its own escalation of hostilities.
The agency said last week it had inspected “one of the two locations a month ago and no undeclared nuclear activities or materials were found there.”
A dirty bomb is a conventional bomb laced with radioactive, biological or chemical materials which are spread in an explosion.
Last Thursday Russian President Vladimir Putin called for the IAEA to inspect Ukraine’s nuclear sites “as fast as possible”. Putin has said the government in Kyiv wanted to “cover the traces of the construction of a ‘dirty bomb’,” claiming he also knew approximately where the construction was taking place.
The IAEA in Monday’s statement also urged the release of a Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant employee, who was detained some two weeks ago.
The plant – Europe’s largest atomic facility – was captured by Russian troops in March in the early days of the invasion.
Grossi again stressed the plant’s “precarious situation”, including his concern for “the increasingly difficult and stressful working conditions for the plant’s Ukrainian operating personnel”.
Another employee detained some two weeks ago was released recently, the statement said.
Ukraine claims Moscow’s forces are “kidnapping” the plant’s staff and said recently that approximately 50 employees were held in “captivity”.
Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling the plant, sparking fears of a nuclear disaster.
The IAEA has been in contact with Moscow and Kyiv to set up a security zone around the plant.