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Russia’s war in Ukraine, Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant


Russia’s war in Ukraine, Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

The Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is seen on June 15.
The Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is seen on June 15. Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claims that Russia has been using the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as a cover for shelling neighboring cities.

The plant, with six reactors, is the largest nuclear power station in Europe. It was mostly built in the Soviet era and became Ukrainian property after its declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Russia captured the plant in March 2022. Since then, international and local experts have voiced grave warnings, not only for the safety of the plant’s workers but also for fear of a nuclear disaster that could affect thousands of people in the surrounding area.

Russian forces have “set up artillery on the territory of the plant or near it and fire,” Zelensky said in a virtual address to students and professors from several universities in Argentina on Wednesday.   

“Moscow is considering various scenarios, including those similar to the man-made disaster at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station. That is, for cynical military purposes. But we should not even think about which scenario is most likely. We should only think about how to prevent any disaster scenario,” Zelensky added. 

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It’s not yet clear whether the Russian-occupied Nova Kakhovka dam collapsed in June because it was deliberately targeted or if the breach was caused by structural failure. Dozens of people died in the flooding, according to officials, while it also caused widespread damage to homes and farmland. Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the collapse. 

Ukrainian officials earlier on Wednesday said they are well prepared for a Russian attack at the Zaporizhzhia plant, though they warned that Moscow is capable of anything, even “completely reckless actions” that it could try to pass off as sabotage by Ukraine. 

Russia claimed to be taking precautionary measures to counter a threat at the plant by Ukraine amid increasing rhetoric. According to Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman, the situation at Europe’s largest nuclear station is “quite tense,” and the potential for “sabotage by the Kyiv regime” is “high,” which could have “catastrophic consequences.”

The UN’s nuclear watchdog said in an update on Wednesday that there are no visible indications of mines or explosives at the power plant, although it requested additional access to the site.

News Portal Space’s Lauren Kent and Anna Chernova contributed reporting to this post.

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