Russia warns of nuclear “provocation” at Ukrainian power plant


A soldier with a Russian flag on his uniform stands guard near the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant amid the Ukraine-Russia conflict outside the Russian-controlled town of Enerhodar in Zaporizhia region, Ukraine, August 4, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko/File photo

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MOSCOW, Aug 18 (Reuters) – Russia on Thursday warned of the danger of a man-made nuclear disaster at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant and accused Ukraine of planning a “provocation” there on Friday during a visit by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The plant near the front lines has come under repeated fire in recent weeks, with both Ukraine and Russia blaming each other for the shelling.

The Russian Defense Ministry accused Ukraine of trying to stage a “small accident” at the plant in southern Ukraine in order to blame Russia.

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Reuters could not verify Russia’s claim.

The Zaporizhia nuclear reactor complex, the largest in Europe, was captured by Russian forces shortly after tens of thousands of troops invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what Russia is calling a “military special operation.”

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told reporters that Moscow was taking measures to ensure security at the complex and denied using heavy weapons in and around the plant.

The ministry said the facility could be closed if Ukrainian forces continue shelling it.

In a briefing, Igor Kirillov, head of the Russian Armed Forces for Radioactive, Chemical and Biological Defense, said the facility’s support systems were damaged by the shelling.

Kirillov presented a slide showing that in the event of an accident at the facility, radioactive material would cover Germany, Poland and Slovakia.

Guterres, who is due to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy later on Thursday, has called for an end to all fighting near the plant.

Yevgeny Balitsky, the head of the Russian-installed administration in the Zaporizhia region, said earlier there was a risk that the shelling could damage the reactor complex’s cooling system.

Russia says Ukrainian forces are ruthlessly firing at the plant.

Ukraine says Russia intentionally used the power plant as a base to launch attacks against its forces and that Russian troops struck it themselves, blaming Ukraine for subsequent blackouts.

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Reuters reporting; Edited by Raissa Kasolowsky and Mark Heinrich

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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