The head of the IAEA has warned of dangers surrounding Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant

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The head of the IAEA has warned of dangers surrounding Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant

UN nucler power watchdog, International Atomic Energy Agency, Zaporizhzhia Power Plant

The head of the UN nuclear power watchdog warned Saturday that the situation around the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility was "increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous".

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi issued the warning after what he said was an ongoing evacuation in the nearby town of Enrhodar ordered by the local Russian-installed governor.

"The general situation in the vicinity of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is becoming increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous," Grossi said on the agency's website.

"I am very concerned about the very real nuclear safety and security risks facing the plant. We must act now to prevent the risk of a severe nuclear accident and the associated consequences for the population and the environment."

In February 2022, Russian forces seized the Zaporizhzhia plant days after President Vladimir Putin ordered an attack on its neighbor. There have been frequent exchanges of fire near the installation, with each side blaming the other.

Grossi last visited the Zaporizhzhia station, Europe's largest nuclear power facility, in March, as part of efforts to negotiate an agreement on safeguards to ensure the plant's safe operation. 

He has repeatedly warned of the dangers of military operations around the plant.

Last September, Russia announced the annexation of four regions of Ukraine, including the Zaporizhzhia region.

The plant is located in a part of the territory that is under Russian control, with many of its staff living in Anrudar, on the southern bank of the Dnipro River.

Evgeny Balitsky, the Russian-appointed governor of the Russian-controlled part of the Zaporizhzhia region, said on Friday that he had ordered the evacuation of villages near the front line with Ukrainian forces there. He said that shelling by Ukraine has intensified in the area in recent days.

A widely expected Ukrainian spring counteroffensive against Russian forces is seen as likely to take the Zaporizhzhia region, about 80 percent of which Moscow holds.

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