Russia is utilizing Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP), Europe’s largest nuclear power station, as a depot to stash military weapons, particularly “missile systems,” and to bombard the parts of Ukraine adjacent to the nuclear power plant, as revealed by a Ukrainian official of Kyiv’s nuclear agency.

In an interview broadcast on Friday, the Ukrainian nuclear agency head of Energoatom described the situation as “extremely tense,” claiming that as many as 500 Russian soldiers are currently in control of the nuke plant.

“The occupiers bring their machinery there, including missile systems, from which they already shell the other side of the river Dnipro and the territory of Nikopol,” Pedro Kotin said.

“They physically control the perimeter. The occupiers’ heavy machinery and trucks with weapons and explosives remain on the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” he added. Before taking shots at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he continued, “The pressure on the occupiers to leave the territory of the plant is insufficient.”

According to him, the International Atomic Energy Agency is engaging in political maneuvering by attempting to strike a balance between Russia and Ukraine. The IAEA has indicated that it needs to travel to the plant to carry out necessary upkeep duties.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi noted the importance of “being able to travel to the (Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant) to conduct essential safety, security and safeguards activities,” according to a statement.

He also reaffirmed his “growing concern” regarding the intense and challenging circumstances that the workers at the ZNPP are forced to undergo, as well as the influence that such conditions have on the protection and wellbeing of the plant. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, the agency has not been able to travel to the plant for inspections.

Lydie Evrard, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security listen to questions posed by the international press and media concerning the situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine. IAEA Vienna, Austria. March 4, 2022. (Source: IAEA ImagebankCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

About the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant

Zaporizhzhia is a large plant in southern Ukraine close to the Dnieper River. The Russian military has occupied the plant, famously known as Europe’s most powerful nuclear power facility. The nuclear power station is located in Enerhodar, a town with a population of around 53,000 that was constructed during the Soviet era specifically to accommodate nuclear workers. The Ukrainian crew is still operating it; however, Russia has dispatched its nuclear experts to check the operation that they are doing. The deputy prime minister of Russia has promised that Russia will sell Ukraine’s power from it. If Kyiv refused to pay for the plant’s electricity, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin threatened that Russia would incorporate the Zaporizhzhia facility into Russia’s energy infrastructure.

On March 3, Russian forces launched an assault on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station. The Russian military continued to shell the plant throughout the night, causing severe damage to the location and wounding two individuals. It was initially unclear whether the “safety systems” of the said nuclear installations were compromised. Further evaluations depending on the outcomes of the extensive inspection reports were needed by the operating organization of the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine, which is Ukraine’s nuclear regulatory organization.

As a result of the shelling, reports indicate that the situation at occupied power plants is already tricky and is likely to deteriorate further. The plant managers are required to obtain approval before taking any action, such as those pertaining to the reactors’ functioning. In addition, the Ukrainian nuclear regulator has reported that it is currently experiencing difficulties in interacting with employees at Zaporizhzhya because phone lines, email addresses, and fax machines are no longer functioning.

Conflict’s Key Developments

Stand with Ukraine against Russian Invasion – Vancouver Anti-War Rally, February 26, 2022. (Source: GoToVan from Vancouver, CanadaCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Recent developments of the five-month conflict include that after Russia’s military said it was stepping up its onslaught on its neighbor, Russian forces launched missiles and bombs at towns and cities across Ukraine. Ukrainian officials reported that approximately 17 more civilians were killed due to these strikes.

His ministry announced on Saturday that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had given commands even further to ramp up the deeds of troops in all “operational areas,” intending to eliminate the “possibility” that the Kyiv rule will release massive rocket and artillery attacks on civilian areas and inhabitants of communities in the Donbas and other regions.

At this point, the eastern region of Donbas has been the primary target of Russia’s military effort; however, subsequent operations have also struck areas in the territory’s north and south. Lately, particularly severe bombing raids have been directed at Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. As a result, Ukrainian officials and local officers have expressed their concern that a possibility of a second full-scale Russian attack on the city’s northern region may be in the works.

At least three civilians were killed, and three more were damaged on Saturday in a pre-dawn Russian missile strike on the northern Ukrainian city of Chuhuiv. Chuhuiv is close to Kharkiv and only 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the Russian border. The assault was carried out in the wee hours of the morning, according to the head of the regional police force.