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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has expressed ‘grave concern’ regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and appealed to Russia to avoid any action that may imperil the safety of nuclear facilities in the country.

The appeal comes after Russia launched a full-scale military operation against Ukraine.

In a statement, the international nuclear watchdog said that it is closely monitoring the evolving situation to ensure the safety of the nuclear power plants and other nuclear-related facilities in Ukraine.

It added that the Ukraine regulatory body has said that the operational nuclear power plants are running safely.

The IAEA also stated that all State Specialised Enterprise Chernobyl nuclear power plant (NPP) facilities had been captured by ‘unidentified armed forces’.

There has so far been no damage to the facilities or casualties, the regulator added.

IAEA director-general Rafael Mariano Grossi said: “It is of vital importance that the safe and secure operations of the nuclear facilities in that zone should not be affected or disrupted in any way.

“Any armed attack on and threat against nuclear facilities devoted to peaceful purposes constitutes a violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter, international law and the Statute of the Agency.”

The IAEA said that it remains in ‘permanent contact’ with its Ukrainian counterpart.

There are currently four operational nuclear power plants in Ukraine.

Earlier this week, Ukrainian government advisor Mykhailo Podolyak said that Russian forces had captured the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. This was later confirmed by the Russian Defence Ministry.

As an intergovernmental agency, the IAEA facilitates scientific and technical cooperation in the nuclear field and encourages the peaceful use of nuclear technology.

Last year, the agency completed a long-term operational safety review at the Ascó nuclear power plant in Spain.