Russian patrol detains head of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant



KYIV, Oct 1 (Reuters) - A Russian patrol has detained the director general of Ukraine's Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the state-owned company in charge of the plant said on Saturday, and the U.N. nuclear watchdog said Russia had confirmed the move.

Ihor Murashov was detained on his way from the nuclear plant, Europe's largest, to the town of Enerhodar at around 4 p.m. (1300 GMT) on Friday, the head of state-owned Energoatom, Petro Kotin, said in a statement.

"He was taken out of the car, and with his eyes blindfolded he was driven in an unknown direction," Kotin wrote on the Telegram messaging app, adding there was no immediate word on Murashov's fate.

Russia has not publicly commented on the issue.

Kotin said he had appealed to the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, to take "all possible immediate actions to urgently free" Murashov.

Asked by Reuters for comment, a spokesperson for the IAEA said: "We have contacted Russian authorities and are requesting clarifications." Later on Saturday the IAEA said it had been informed by Russian authorities that Murashov was being held for questioning.

"The IAEA sought clarification from the Russian authorities and has been informed that the director-general of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant was temporarily detained to answer questions," a spokesperson said without elaborating.

The Zaporizhzhia plant has been a focal point of Russia's seven-month invasion of Ukraine, as Moscow and Kyiv accuse each other of shelling the facility, risking a nuclear disaster.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called for the area around the plant, which is still staffed by Ukrainians, to be demilitarized.

In his Telegram statement, Kotin said Murashov "bears main and exclusive responsibility for the nuclear and radiation safety" of the plant and his detention "jeopardizes the safety of operation of Ukraine and Europe’s largest nuclear power plant".

Kotin called on Russian forces to "stop immediately the acts of nuclear terrorism towards the management and personnel" of the plant and release Murashov.
Reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv; Additional reporting by Michael Shields in Zurich; Writing by William Mallard; Editing by Gareth Jones and David Holmes

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