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Ukrainian forces have begun to “prepare” for a counteroffensive

Russia’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Governor Mikhail Ulyanov attends the IAEA Board of Governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on March 7. (Askin Kiyagan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Moscow welcomes the planned trip by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine, which is occupied by Russian forces, a Russian diplomat has said according to state media.

Russia’s permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said Russia understands that the IAEA will leave several representatives at the plant on a permanent basis, state media RIA Novosti reported.

“As far as we know, the director general’s intention is to leave a number of people at the station permanently,” Ulyanov was quoted as saying by RIA.

Ulyanov added that the mission consists of “about a dozen employees of the agency’s secretariat dealing with nuclear safety and safeguards issues,” as well as a large team of UN staff dealing with logistics and security, RIA reported.

“Russia has made a significant contribution to the preparation of this mission. We hope that the IAEA mission’s visit to the plant will dispel many speculations about the unfavorable situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” Ulyanov added.

What’s going on? On Monday morning, IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Grossi tweeted that the delegation would arrive in Zaporizhzhia, home to Europe’s largest nuclear facility, “by the end of this week.”

The Kremlin said on Monday that the IAEA mission will enter the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant from the Ukrainian side, but Russia will guarantee its safety in territory occupied by the Russian military.

As far as Russian-controlled territory is concerned, security will be provided at the proper level required there,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a regular conference call.

“[The mission] will enter the [nuclear plant] territory of the area controlled by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. There, security will be provided by the Ukrainians,” added Peskov.

Asked about the possibility of creating a demilitarized zone around the plant, Peskov said it was “not under discussion.”

Peskov added that Russia welcomes the long-awaited IAEA mission.

“We have been waiting for this mission for a long time. We consider it necessary,” Peskov said.

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