Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during shelling
Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during shellingZaporizhzhya NPP via YouTube/via REUTERS

The UN nuclear watchdog on Sunday expressed "deep concern" over reports that communication from Europe's largest nuclear power plant seized by Russia in Ukraine has been disrupted, AFP reports.

Russian forces captured the Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility early Friday morning after it was hit by artillery fire and set ablaze.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement on Sunday that Ukraine informed it that the plant management is now under orders from the commander of the Russian forces.

Ukraine has also reported that the Russian forces have switched off some mobile networks and the internet, and that telephone lines, emails and fax were not functioning anymore.

They said mobile phone communication was still possible with poor quality, the IAEA said.

"I'm extremely concerned about these developments that were reported to me today," IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said.

"In order to be able to operate the plant safely and securely, management and staff must be allowed to carry out their vital duties in stable conditions without undue external interference or pressure," he added.

He expressed "deep concern" over "the deteriorating situation regarding vital communications between the regulator and the Zaporizhzhia NPP (nuclear power plant)".

"Reliable communications between the regulator and the operator are a critical part of overall nuclear safety and security," said Grossi.

The IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors last week held an emergency meeting over the war in Ukraine and the threat to nuclear waste facilities in the country.

Russian forces had previously seized the spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste facilities at Chernobyl, the site of the world's worst nuclear accident at a now-defunct power plant.

The takeover prompted condemnation from the United States, after “credible” reports were received that Russian soldiers are holding staff of Chernobyl hostage.