02:06 - Source: CNN
New satellite images debunk Putin's claim about nuclear plant
CNN  — 

US President Joe Biden and Western leaders on Sunday stressed the need for the United Nations nuclear watchdog to visit the Zaporizhzhia power plant in southeastern Ukraine, where shelling has sparked fears of a disaster, according to a White House statement.

The statement issued Sunday said Biden held a conference call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, in which the leaders “affirmed their continued support for Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself against Russian aggression.”

The leaders also reiterated “the need to avoid military operations near the plant” and the importance of a visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “as soon as feasible to ascertain the state of safety systems.”

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine, July 9, 2019.

Kyiv and Moscow have made a barrage of accusations against each other about security and military action at and around the plant, the largest nuclear complex in Europe. But the lack of independent access to the plant, which has been occupied by Russian forces since March, makes it impossible to verify what is happening there.

Over the past month, a number of rockets and shells have landed on the territory of the plant, according to satellite imagery analyzed by CNN. CNN is unable to verify what strikes occurred, nor who was responsible.

CNN has geolocated and confirmed the authenticity of video showing Russian military vehicles inside a turbine hall connected to a nuclear reactor at the plant, which began circulating on social media Thursday.

The vehicles, which appear to be standard Russian military trucks, are sitting in the far western edge of the building on the ground floor, just over 400 feet (130 meters) from the reactor.

Moscow has previously said the only military equipment at the plant is related to guard duties. On Thursday, the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that satellite imagery, “shows that weapons, especially heavy ones, are not placed on the territory of this station.”

According to a source from the Elysee Palace, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed during a call with Macron Friday for an IAEA mission to visit the plant via territory controlled by Ukrainian forces.

CNN’s Joseph Ataman and Amandine Hess contributed reporting.