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President Zelensky meets with U.N. atomic agency chief in Ukraine

The two discussed the precarious situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which has lost several of its power transmission cables during the war with Russia

This handout picture released by Ukrainian Presidential press-service on March 24, 2023 in Kyiv shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the head of Ukraine'ss security service Vasyl Malyuk.
This handout picture released by Ukrainian Presidential press-service on March 24, 2023 in Kyiv shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the head of Ukraine'ss security service Vasyl Malyuk.HANDOUT (AFP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met Monday with U.N. atomic energy chief Rafael Mariano Grossi in southern Ukraine where they discussed the precarious situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. The plant, which is Europe’s biggest, has lost several of its power transmission cables during Russia’s war, and on multiple occasions has had to switch to emergency diesel generators.

Grossi, who is director-general of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, plans to visit the plant, which is held by Russian forces, this week. The agency has permanent staff stationed at the plant.

In the meeting, covered exclusively by The Associated Press, Grossi expressed his concern to Zelensky that the situation at the plant “isn’t getting any better.”

He stressed that the situation at the plant remains tense because of the militarization of the area around it and the recent blackout at the plant. It wasn’t the first time that has occurred since Russian forces last year took it over.

The two met in the the city of Zaporizhzhia, which is in Ukrainian-held territory, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) northeast of the nuclear plant with the same name.

Elsewhere, two people were killed and 29 wounded Monday when Russian forces shelled the Ukrainian city of Sloviansk, in the partially occupied eastern Donetsk region, local officials said.

Video footage of the aftermath showed damaged residential buildings, debris in the streets and vehicles on fire.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky described the attack as “terrorism.”

Russia has denied targeting residential areas even though artillery and rocket strikes have hit Ukrainian apartment buildings and civilian infrastructure daily during the war.

The Sloviansk attack followed a typical pattern of long-range shelling adopted by the Kremlin’s forces, especially in recent months as the fighting became deadlocked during the bitterly cold winter months.

In the eastern Donetsk region, some 10 cities and villages were shelled by Russian forces over the previous 24 hours, Ukraine’s presidential office reported Monday.

On Monday morning, Russian missiles hit the city of Avdiivka, damaging residential buildings, a hotel and a courthouse, it said. nAvdiivka Mayor Vitali Barabash said utility companies are being evacuated from the frontline city, as it “resembles more and more a landscape from post-apocalyptic movies.”

Attacks also intensified in the partially occupied southeastern Zaporizhzhia region, where 14 settlements on the front line were shelled, authorities said.

In the partially occupied Kherson region, the Ukrainian-controlled part of the province was shelled 20 times by the Russian artillery and aviation, wounding four people, the presidential office said.

The mayor of the occupied city of Melitopol said several explosions shook the city Monday, damaging a building where Russian security forces have been quartered. Mayor Ivan Fyodorov posted photos of smoke billowing over the area where the Russian barracks are located.

The Russian-installed authorities said “artillery shelling” of Melitopol partially destroyed a vocational school building, damaged several other buildings and wounded four people.

Meanwhile, Zelensky met in Kyiv with British actor Orlando Bloom, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office Andriy Yermak said Monday.

Bloom, who is also a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, arrived in the Ukrainian capital over the weekend and visited its suburb of Irpin.

During his meeting with Zelensky, Bloom said “he was struck by the courage and resilience of Ukrainians, who despite the war remain strong,” Yermak wrote.

Bloom “will support projects to provide humanitarian assistance and restore infrastructure, focused on ensuring the interests of Ukrainian children,” the official said.

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