Ukraine: Russian workers at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant ‘told not to show up’ as military trucks ‘seen inside’

Both Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of shelling Europe’s largest nuclear power station

Lamiat Sabin
Friday 19 August 2022 14:32 BST
Zelenksy says Russia is using Zaporizhzhya plant as 'nuclear blackmail'
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Russia has reportedly told workers at a nuclear power plant in Ukraine not to attend work amid claims Russian military vehicles were seen inside the building.

Both sides in the war have accused each other of planning an incident at the Zaporizhzhia plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power station.

Vladimir Putin on Friday said shelling of the facility, which he blamed on Ukraine, could result in a “large-scale catastrophe” that “could lead to radiation contamination of vast territories” and threatened to shut it down.

The Kremlin submitted a letter to the United Nations Security Council warning of planned “provocations” by Ukraine.

However, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday that the plant must be kept out of military hands, and insisted that electricity generated there belonged to Ukraine and should not be diverted for Russian use.

Russian workers at the plant were told to stay away on Friday, it was reported, citing Ukrainian military intelligence.

The Ukrainian military’s intelligence agency claimed that Russia is planning to stage a “false flag” attack to “raise the stakes” amid the sixth month of its invading Ukraine.

Russian serviceman guarding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Andriy Yusov, a spokesman for the intelligence directorate, told reporters on Thursday: “There is new information, it arrived about half an hour ago, that for tomorrow, August 19, there is an order for the majority of the staff not to go to work.

“This is what the Russians told their people, primarily the employees of Rosatom.”

He said that this could show that Russia is preparing “large-scale provocations” at the power plant.

On Thursday, a clip was shared on social media that purported to show at least five Russian military trucks inside the plant.

Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Russia’s military presence at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine is a guarantee against what he called a “Chernobyl scenario”.

Volodymyr Zelensky has called on the leaders of the UN and Turkey to intervene and secure the safety of the plant.

The Ukrainian president said: “Russia must withdraw its troops from the plant immediately.”

He tweeted: “The world is on a verge of nuclear disaster due to occupation of [the] world’s third largest nuclear power plant in Energodar, Zaporizhzhia region.

“How long will it take the global community to respond to Russia’s irresponsible actions and nuclear blackmailing?”

Russia occupied the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in March, soon after Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine. It has repeatedly come under fire in recent weeks, raising fears of a nuclear disaster.

Both Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling the facility, where only two of the six reactors have recently been in operation.

In a call that the Kremlin said was initiated by Emmanuel Macron, Putin warned the French president that shelling of the nuclear power plant, which he blamed on Kyiv, could result in a “large-scale catastrophe” that “could lead to radiation contamination of vast territories”.

The Kremlin also said that, during the call, the pair had stressed the importance of sending a delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency to the plant as soon as possible.

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