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Boss of Ukraine's Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant released after "illegal detention"

Ukraine retakes city, Russian troops retreat
Ukraine retakes key logistics city and pushes Russian forces back 07:34

Vienna, Austria — The detained chief of Ukraine's Russian-held nuclear power plant has been released, the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog said Monday.  

"I welcome the release of Ihor Murashov, director general of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant; I have received confirmation that Mr Murashov has returned to his family safely," Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Twitter.

Kyiv on Saturday called for the immediate release of Murashov, condemning his "illegal detention."

Zaporizhzhia — Europe's largest nuclear energy facility — has been at the center of recent tensions after Moscow and Kyiv accused each other of strikes on and near the plant, raising fears of an atomic disaster.

UN inspectors call for security zone around Ukrainian nuclear plant 01:23

Murashov was detained by a "Russian patrol" on Friday at around 4:00 p.m. local time (8:00 a.m. Eastern) on his way from the plant to the city of Energodar, the head of Ukraine's nuclear agency Energoatom, Petro Kotin, said in a statement.

He said Murashov's vehicle was stopped, he was taken out of the car and "with his eyes blindfolded, he was driven in an unknown direction."

Ukraine's foreign ministry said in a statement it "condemns in the strongest terms the illegal detention."

Murashov "bears the main and exclusive responsibility for the nuclear and radiation safety" of the Zaporizhzhia plant, according to Kotin.

Russian strike kills at least 25 in Zaporizhzhia as Putin annexes parts of Ukraine 07:17

The nuclear plant is located in Russian-held territory of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region, which Russia on Friday annexed together with three other territories in Ukraine: Donetsk, Lugansk and Kherson.

Shelling around the plant has spurred calls from Kyiv and its Western allies to demilitarize areas around nuclear facilities in Ukraine. Russia has indicated no willingness, however, to remove its forces from the Zaporizhzhia plant.

A monitoring team from the U.N. visited Zaporizhzhia in early September, and the IAEA has been pushing Kyiv and Moscow to agree to set up a security zone around the plant to seek to avoid any nuclear accidents.

Ukraine mayor fears Putin's nuclear weapons 03:01

Grossi said over the weekend that he was expecting to travel to Kyiv and Moscow this week to discuss the issue, but as CBS News senior foreign correspondent Charlie D'Agata reported on Monday, the tension between Russia and Ukraine is only mounting.

D'Agata reported from the city of Dnipro, one of the many towns in Ukrainian-held territory where civilians are bearing the brunt of Vladimir Putin's anger as his own forces are pushed back from ground they've held for months.

The exiled mayor of the city of Melitopol, which sits in the Russian-occupied portion of the Zaporizhzhia region, told D'Agata he expects Putin to lash out with a tactical nuclear strike in retaliation for the loss of territory.

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