KYIV, UKRAINE    -    Staff at Ukraine’s Zapor­izhzhia nuclear plant oc­cupied by Russian soldiers were on Friday working to reconnect its reactors to the national power grid, the state energy operator said.

The plant -- Europe’s larg­est facility -- was cut off from Ukraine’s power network for the first time in its history on Thursday due to “actions of the invaders”, Energoatom said. Zaporizhzhia has been cause for mounting concern since it was seized by Rus­sian troops in the opening weeks of the war.

In recent weeks, Kyiv and Moscow have traded blame for rocket strikes around the facility in the southern Ukrainian city of Energodar.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Thursday the cut-off was caused by Russian shell­ing of the last active power line linking the plant to the network. “Russia has put Ukrainians as well as all Eu­ropeans one step away from radiation disaster,” he said in his nightly address.

Early Friday, Energoatom said on Telegram that all re­actors remain “disconnected from the electrical grid” as of 9 am local time (0600 GMT).

However a severed power line -- the cause of the out­age -- has been “restored” and “work is ongoing to pre­pare the connection” of two of the plant’s six reactors.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has previously said the situa­tion at the plant is “highly volatile” and “underlines the very real risk of a nuclear disaster”. “We can’t afford to lose any more time,” the organisation’s Director Gen­eral Rafael Mariano Grossi said on Thursday.

“I’m determined to per­sonally lead an IAEA mission to the plant in the next few days.” Ukraine energy min­ister adviser Lana Zerkal said the inspection “is planned for the next week, and now we are working on how they will get there”. But in an interview with Ukraine’s Radio NV on Thursday evening she was sceptical the mission would go ahead, despite Moscow’s formal agreement.

“They are artificially creat­ing all the conditions so that the mission will not reach the site,” she said.

Zelensky has said “the IAEA and other interna­tional organisations should react much quicker”.

Energoatom said the plant outage was caused by a power line being twice dis­connected by ash pit fires in an adjacent thermal power plant. The three other power lines “were earlier damaged during terrorist attacks” by Russian forces, the op­erator said. Energoatom did not disclose whether there were blackouts as a result of the power cut. However the mayor of the city of Meli­topol Ivan Fedorov said on Thursday “Russian occupi­ers cut off the electricity in almost all occupied settle­ments of Zaporizhzhia”.