'Difficult' for IAEA to impartially assess nuclear plant, Ukraine says

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IAEA expert mission visits Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant

KYIV (Reuters) -Ukraine's state nuclear company, Energoatom, said on Friday that it would be "difficult" for the UN nuclear watchdog to make an impartial assessment of the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant due to Russian interference.

Energoatom also said the mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which arrived at the power station on Thursday, had not been allowed to enter the plant's crisis centre, where Ukraine says Russia has stationed troops.

"The Russians did not allow the mission to enter (the plant's) crisis centre, where Russian military personnel (are) currently stationed, whom the IAEA representatives were not supposed to see," Energoatom wrote on Telegram.

The Zaporizhzhia plant, the largest in Europe, was captured by Moscow in the first weeks of its invasion of Ukraine, but continues to be operated by Energoatom's staff under the supervision of Russian troops.

The plant, 10 km (6 miles) from Ukrainian positions across the Dnipro river, has come under repeated shelling over the past month, with Kyiv and Moscow trading blame.

"The (Russian) occupiers lie, distort the facts and evidence that testify to their shelling of the power plant, as well as the consequences of damage to the (plant's) infrastructure," Energoatom's statement said.

"It is clear that under such conditions it will be difficult for IAEA to make an impartial assessment of the situation at (the plant)."

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Writing by Max Hunder,Editing by Gareth Jones and Nick Macfie)