What you need to know right now By Reuters

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© Reuters. Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran, Iran July 19, 2022. President Website/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

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(Reuters) – A team from the U.N. nuclear watchdog (IAEA) is heading to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the agency’s chief said, as Russia and Ukraine traded accusations of shelling in its vicinity, stirring fears of a radiation disaster.

NUCLEAR PLANT

* The IAEA team will assess any damage from recent shelling near the plant, evaluate the conditions in which staff are working and “determine functionality of safety & security systems”.

* A top Russian diplomat said Moscow welcomes the IAEA mission, and a Russian-installed official in the region of the plant said authorities would ensure the safety of the U.N. nuclear inspectors, Russian news agencies reported.

* Russia’s defence ministry said Russian forces shot down a Ukrainian drone which was trying to attack the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. Reuters was unable to independently verify the report.

* The Kremlin called on the international community to pressure Ukraine to reduce military tension at the nuclear plant, accusing Kyiv of putting the whole of Europe at danger ahead of a visit by U.N. nuclear inspectors.

* The United States said Russia did not want to acknowledge the grave radiological risk at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, adding that was the reason it blocked a nuclear non-proliferation treaty deal’s final draft.

FIGHTING

* Russia’s air force hit workshops at a Motor Sich factory in the Zaporizhzhia region where helicopters were being repaired, Russian state news agency RIA quoted the defence ministry as saying.

* The defence ministry also said Russian forces destroyed fuel storage facilities in Ukraine’s Dnipro region, Interfax news agency reported.

* Reuters could not verify battlefield reports.

* Britain’s defence ministry said it was not clear how Russia would achieve an announced large increase in its armed forces but the boost was unlikely to substantially increase its combat power in Ukraine.

HUMAN IMPACT

* Across Ukraine, authorities are building bomb shelters and repairing thousands of buildings damaged by Russian shelling before the country’s nearly 6 million school-aged children return to school in September – in person or online.

DIPLOMACY, ECONOMY

* European Union foreign ministers, meeting in Prague on Tuesday and Wednesday, may agree tightening the issuance of visas for Russians and start debate on a wider ban on tourist visas though there is no agreement on that, EU officials said.

* Six ships laden with food left the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odesa, the spokesman for the regional administration, Serhiy Bratchuk, said on the Telegram app.

* Merchant sailors will be allowed to leave Ukraine if they get approval from their military administrative body, the Ukrainian prime minister said, which could ease the process of shipping grain.

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By Reuters