The Ukraine Defence Ministry said a group of Russian Ka-52 attack helicopters were witnessed hovering over the city, conducting strikes at residential complexes in the area. The organisation said mortar shelling had activated the emergency protection of the plant’s fifth reactor.
Both sides have accused each other of attacks at the plant, where international observers fear a catastrophic nuclear radiation accident if it is damaged.
The United Nations delegation, led by Rafael Grossi, eventually arrived at the plant on Thursday afternoon. They said earlier they were determined to inspect the site despite delays, when they were held up at a checkpoint behind Ukrainian lines.
Mr Grossi said: "There has been increased military activity, including this morning until very recently. But weighing the pros and cons and having come so far, we are not stopping."
He noted the risks were “very, very high” in the so-called grey zone between Ukrainian and Russian positions, but “we consider that we have the minimum conditions to move”.
A spokesman for the IAEA later said the mission had been delayed on the Ukrainian-controlled side of the front line for some three hours, adding Mr Grossi "has personally negotiated with Ukrainian military authorities to be able to proceed and he remains determined that this important mission reaches the ZNPP today".
Oleksandr Starukh, head of Zaporizhzhia Oblast state administration, said: “Russian forces conducted military attacks at the previously agreed route for the IAEA Mission, hindering the UN Agency’s movement in the area for security purposes. We demand an immediate halt to the provocations by the Russian army in order to secure a safe and unobstructed access to the nuclear facility.”
Dmytro Orlov, mayor of Enerhodar, said: “We can confirm that civilians have been directly affected and wounded by the attacks from Russian forces on Enerhodar this morning. The Russian army deployed automatic rifles equipped with shells, as well as military aviation tactics, that have impacted residential streets, such as Tsentralna, Voyiniv-Internatsionalistiv and Kurchatova, as well as private houses in the suburbs.”
The IAEA hopes to install inspectors on a more permanent basis.