Rafael Grossi, the Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has left for Kyiv following Moscow’s announcement that it has “officially” taken over the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant in south-eastern Ukraine.

President Putin signed a decree on Wednesday, Oct. 6 placing the Russian-occupied nuclear power plant – the largest in Europe – under Russian state control, and amending the country’s constitution to admit four annexed regions of Ukraine into the Russian Federation.

Putin also instructed his cabinet to devise a plan on how the site (occupied by Russian forces since March) should be operated and regulated.

Reacting to the concerning developments, Grossi, head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency, issued a tweet on Wednesday evening: “On our way to Kyiv for important meetings. The need for a Nuclear Safety and Security Protection Zone (NSSPZ) around #Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant is now more urgent than ever.”

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Image: Rafael Grossi Twitter

The tweet was accompanied by a photograph of Grossi boarding a train.

The annexation of Zaporizhzhya along with other captured regions in Eastern Ukraine has been largely condemned by the international community, and follows a series of sham referendums in the second half of September that saw widespread electoral fraud, including voter intimidation.

On Friday, Sep. 30, Ihor Murashov, head of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant was arrested by Russian forces while travelling from the plant to the town of Enerhodar, which is close to the plant. In a statement reacting to the arrest, Petro Kotin, head of Energoatom, the nuclear power company which operates the plants said: “He was taken out of the car, and with his eyes blindfolded he was driven in an unknown direction.”

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Speaking on Oct. 1, Grossi said that his detention  “has an immediate and serious impact on decision-making in ensuring the safety and security of the plant.” Two days later Grossi said he welcomed the news that Murashov had been released, tweeting that he had “received confirmation that Mr Murashov has returned to his family safely.”

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However, local media outlet Hromadske.ua quoted Kotin on Wednesday, Oct. 5 as saying that he was now carrying out duties at Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant as its acting chief in place of Murashov.

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