Russia ‘tells its staff at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant not to come to work’
Russia has told its staff working at the occupied Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant not to come to work today, Ukraine claimed.
Andriy Yusov, spokesman for Ukraine’s main military intelligence agency, said employees of the Russian nuclear company Rosatom had been ordered not to show up on Friday – raising fears they are planning a “large-scale provocation” at the plant. .
The warning was issued late Thursday, when UN chief Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Volodymyr Zelensky in the western city of Lviv to discuss issues including the safety of the Zaporizhzhia plant.
President Erdogan said on his first visit to Ukraine since the war broke out that he is “concerned” about the situation there, adding: “We don’t want another Chernobyl.”
Ukraine says Russia has told staff at Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant not to come to work today for fear of a ‘major provocation’ there (file image)
Ukraine has begun rehearsals for a nuclear disaster in Zaporizhzhya amid explosions around the nearby Russian-occupied nuclear power plant, caused by Moscow’s troops
Ukrainian soldiers stand guard as aid workers drive a volunteer – posing as a victim of a nuclear disaster – through a supermarket parking lot that would serve as a shelter for the injured in the event of a real fallout
Guterres, who has called for independent UN inspectors to enter the factory to ensure its safety, said any attack on the factory would be akin to “suicide.”
“We have to tell it like it is – any possible damage to Zaporizhzhya is suicide,” he said.
Ukraine’s military intelligence agency said: “Given the number of weapons currently on the territory of the nuclear power plant, as well as repeated provocative shelling, there is a high probability of a large-scale terrorist attack on the nuclear power plant.”
Zaporizhzhya, with six nuclear reactors, is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant and accounts for about a fifth of Ukraine’s annual energy consumption.
It is close to Crimea, on the eastern side of the Dnipro River that divides Ukraine in two.
Russia has occupied the site since the start of the war when troops took control after a brief but alarming firefight that set an administrative building on fire.
The situation there has been tense but stable in recent months, but has intensified in recent weeks as Ukraine attempts to drive Russia out of the south.
Turkish President Erdogan (left) and UN chief Guterres (right) meet with Volodymyr Zelensky (left and right) in Lviv today to discuss security in Zaporizhzhya
Zaporizhzhya is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, with six reactors (see center) that provided about a fifth of the country’s annual energy supply before the war
A Ukrainian aid worker in a hazmat suit participates in exercises in the city of Zaporizhzhya to prepare for a meltdown at the nearby nuclear power plant
Explosions have been reported several times around the site, with both Russia and Ukraine accusing the other of being the culprit.
Kiev says Russia has turned the factory into a military base and stationed explosives in and around the reactors as a way to protect them from attack.
Ukraine — which still has factory workers as effective prisoners of the Russians — adds that Moscow’s men are trying to disconnect the power plant from the main power grid and divert the energy to occupied Crimea.
This is dangerous, they say, because cutting the station from the mains means that the reactor cooling system has to run on diesel generators, which have limited power.
They also accuse Russian troops of causing explosions around the factory as part of a “false flag” operation that they can blame on Ukraine.
Ukraine’s nuclear regulator says the Russian commander in charge of the factory has told his troops to be ready to blow it up rather than let Ukraine recapture it.
Moscow has rejected these suggestions, saying it is the Ukrainians attacking the factory with the aim of blaming Russia for any fallout.
Zelensky has called on the UN to ensure safety at the plant, while also blaming Russia for “deliberate” attacks on the facility.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said Russia’s seizure of the factory “poses a serious threat,” and has called for a Russian withdrawal and inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog.
A Ukrainian soldier smokes somewhere on the front lines in Zaporzhzhia province, during a campaign to drive Russia out of the south of the country
A Ukrainian soldier prepares his rifle for battle during clashes with Russian troops, somewhere in the south of the country’s Zaporizhzhya province
Ukrainian soldiers observe an area near a frontline amid Russian attack on Ukraine in Zaporizhzhya province
On Thursday, aid workers in Zaporizhzhya — a town that shares its name with the factory, but is actually 30 miles away and under Ukrainian control — began training their response to a disaster at the factory.
Men and women covered head-to-toe protective suits, gas masks, gloves and rubber boots that hosed volunteers posing as irradiated victims.
They were also wheeled around a supermarket parking lot on stretchers and taken through a medical tent on stretchers strapped to a conveyor belt.
In the event of a meltdown at the Zaporizhizhia plant, the parking lot would act as a shelter for thousands affected by the immediate effects of the disaster.
Russia has now spent nearly six months in what should have been a days-long war in Ukraine to overthrow the government and install a puppet regime in Kiev.
It has failed in that goal, nor has it achieved the more modest goal of taking the entire eastern Donbas region.
Luhansk – one of the two provinces that make up the Donbas – is now under Russian control, but troops have only taken about half of the other province, Donetsk.
Russia’s greatest military success is arguably southern Ukraine, where Putin’s forces have captured the city of Mariupol, the entire coast of the Sea of Azov, and succeeded in creating a “land bridge” between Donbas and occupied Crimea.
To undo these gains, Ukraine has announced a major counter-attack in the south with the aim of retaking Kherson – a strategically important city on the Dnipro River – and ultimately driving the Russians out of Crimea.
Ukraine has so far managed to cut off Russia’s supply lines by blowing up bridges and railway lines, and has attacked two airports in Crimea, affecting Russia’s ability to provide air cover for its troops.
However, Kiev’s forces are struggling to regain any significant territory, while Russia has strengthened its positions to make it more difficult to capture them.