Top Putin aide visits Ukraine's Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

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FILE PHOTO: A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict outside the city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Russian-controlled Ukraine, November 24, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

MOSCOW (Reuters) - One of President Vladimir Putin’s most powerful Kremlin aides has visited the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in a part of southern Ukraine Russia says it has annexed, a Moscow-installed official in the region said.

Sergei Kiriyenko, a Kremlin official responsible for overseeing Russia’s domestic politics and a former head of the country’s state nuclear corporation, discussed the safety of the plant, according to Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-installed local official.

“Sergei Kiriyenko visited the nuclear power plant — he checked the safety of the facility and the working conditions of Rosatom employees,” Rogov said on Telegram.

In a picture published by Rogov, Kiriyenko was shown outside the plant, which lies just 500 km (300 miles) from the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, the 1986 Chornobyl disaster.

Shortly after invading Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russian forces took control of the plant in early March. The facility remains near the frontlines, and has repeatedly come under fire in recent months, with Kyiv and Moscow trading blame for the shelling.

Special Russian military units guard the facility and Russian nuclear specialists are on site. Ukrainian staff continue to help operate the plant.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has six Soviet-designed VVER-1000 V-320 water-cooled and water-moderated reactors containing Uranium 235, which has a half-life of more than 700 million years.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi has proposed the establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the plant.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge

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