New satellite images show mystery ‘white objects’ on roof of Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Images shared after Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky claimed Russia had planted explosives at the plant

Eleanor Noyce
Friday 07 July 2023 17:10 BST
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New satellite images depict “white objects” on the roof of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, days after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky alleged that Russia had planted explosives there.

Russian troops seized Europe’s largest nuclear facility on 5 March, shortly after its invasion began in February.

The new photos were captured by satellite imagery company Planet Labs on Wednesday (5 July), showing five white shapes topping the plant at 7.51am UTC (8.51am BST). Notably, an image captured earlier at 5.27am UTC (6.27am BST) shows none.

Five white shapes are seen topping Zaporizhzhia power plant
Five white shapes are seen topping Zaporizhzhia power plant (Planet Labs PBC)
Five white shapes are seen topping Zaporizhzhia power plant
Five white shapes are seen topping Zaporizhzhia power plant (Planet Labs PBC)

However, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has expressed that whilst unexplained, the “white objects” are “not conclusive” of Russian military activity at the plant.

"Based on the imagery available, some changes can be observed at the ZNPP power plant on 5 July, with white objects observed on the roof of one of the buildings”, Joe Byrne, a research fellow on Open Source Intelligence and Analysis at the RUSI told The Independent.

“However, this is not conclusive evidence of any Russian military activity designed to damage the plant,” he added. “More evidence, including and on the site access by IAEA monitors is needed to fully assess the situation."

Darya Dolzikova, a research fellow in Proliferation and Nuclear Policy, noted the changes are “hard to judge” from the images.

Taken earlier at 5.27am UTC (6.27am BST), another image shows no white shapes
Taken earlier at 5.27am UTC (6.27am BST), another image shows no white shapes (Planet Labs PBC)

 "It’s hard to judge from the imagery what the changes on the roofs show - including whether these are in any way related to the explosive devices that Ukrainian intelligence said may be present on reactor roofs at the ZNPP.

“But the sourcing of independent, reliable imagery is important and can help in verifying claims of what is happening at the ZNPP”, Ms Dolzikova said.

“However, the images - including the challenges related to verifying what they actually show - also once again stress the importance of granting the IAEA all the access that it is asking for at the ZNPP - including to the roofs of reactors 3 and 4 - so it can verify the presence or absence of explosives at the facility."

On Tuesday), Mr Zelensky alleged that Russia has planted explosives on the nuclear power plant to simulate an attack, accusing Russian forces of planning to commit a “new evil” following the alleged attack on Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant in June 2023.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe's largest, is seen in the background of the shallow Kakhovka Reservoir
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe's largest, is seen in the background of the shallow Kakhovka Reservoir (AP)

The destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric station and dam triggered mass flooding and environmental havoc, forcing thousands of residents to flee their homes. Ukraine blames the explosion on Russia.

“Now we have information from our intelligence that the Russian military has placed objects resembling explosives on the roof of several power units of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” Mr Zelensky said in his nightly video address on Tuesday.

“Perhaps to simulate an attack on the plant. Perhaps they have some other scenario. But in any case, the world sees – can’t but see – that the only source of danger to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is Russia and no one else.”

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