Ukrainian nuclear power plant: Zaporizhia – is a nuclear catastrophe looming?

Berlin The battle for Ukraine’s Zaporizhia nuclear power plant continues to hold the world in suspense. It is still unclear which troops fired on Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. The West and the United Nations (UN) are demanding Russia’s withdrawal from the power plant site. Moscow, on the other hand, is demanding a ceasefire.

At the beginning of the week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry again offered to do everything necessary to enable inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect the site. That could be organized in the near future. It is unclear why an inspection has not yet taken place. Behind the scenes is dispute between Russia and the Ukraine reports on which area the IAEA experts should travel to.

At the same time, Russia rejects the immediate withdrawal of its troops from the nuclear power plant, which has been contested for days, as demanded by 42 countries and the EU on Sunday. “The leadership of the United Nations and the chief diplomat of the EU should not be talking about demilitarization, but about introducing a ceasefire,” Vladimir Rogov, a representative of the Russian occupation authorities, told Russia’s state-run Ria Novosti news agency. A ceasefire would be very advantageous for the Russian troops in the region, because they would then have a safe base near the front at the nuclear power plant, which has been occupied since March.

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Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of shelling the Zaporizhia power plant near the city of Enerhodar in the south-east of the country – and thereby risking a nuclear catastrophe. The nuclear power plant was occupied by Russian troops in early March. It will continue to be operated by Ukrainian technicians. The city of the same name Zaporizhia, on the other hand, is to the northeast of it in an area that has not yet been taken by Russian troops.

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The danger has now alarmed the international community: UN Secretary-General António Guterres last week warned of a nuclear catastrophe and called for the area to be demilitarized. Then on Sunday, 42 countries and the EU demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Russian occupying forces from the site. “The stationing of Russian military and weapons at the nuclear facility is unacceptable,” the statement said. Russia is violating the security principles to which all member countries of the IAEA have committed themselves. The USA, Great Britain, Norway, Australia and Japan have also signed.

>> Also read here: The most dangerous nuclear power plant in the world: the reactors at Zaporizhia are increasingly becoming a security risk

Last week, the Russian UN ambassador Wassili Nebensja warned of a “nuclear catastrophe”, comparable to the worst case scenario in Chernobyl in northern Ukraine in April 1986. This was the world’s worst radioactive accident to date.

The number of Chernobyl victims is highly controversial, the organization IPPNW assumes hundreds of thousands. The then Soviet head of state Mikhail Gorbachev wrote many years later that Chernobyl may have been the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union – even more so than its transformation of the political system, known as “perestroika”.

Russia and Ukraine are blaming each other

The threat to the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant was also the subject of a UN Security Council meeting last week, vetoed by Russia. The federal government also expressed concern. All sides are called upon to end the “highly dangerous shelling” of the facility immediately, said government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit in Berlin.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has demanded that Russia return control of the nuclear power plant to his country. “Only a complete withdrawal of the Russians (…) and the restoration of full Ukrainian control at the facility can guarantee the nuclear safety of all of Europe,” he said in one of his daily video addresses.

France joined Zelenskiy’s demand, saying that Russia’s control of the nuclear power plant posed a threat to the world. The presence of troops significantly increased the risk of an accident, “with potentially devastating consequences,” the Foreign Ministry said in Paris. Russia, on the other hand, had called for a ceasefire in the contested zone. It is unclear whether this is also a condition for an IAEA inspection.

>> Also read here: Consequences of war: Russia threatens “complete economic isolation”

It is still unclear who is responsible for the highly dangerous shelling of the power plant. The Russians accuse the Ukrainian troops of repeatedly shelling the nuclear power plant. The Ukrainian command responsible for the south rejected this: “The Ukrainian armed forces do not damage the infrastructure, do not attack where there is a danger of global importance,” said a spokeswoman.

Again civilians are killed

On the other hand, according to Ukrainian military intelligence, Russian troops fired on the site of the nuclear power plant from a village a few kilometers away on Saturday, damaging a pumping station and a fire station. Earlier, Russian troops brought people into the power plant and raised a Ukrainian flag on the outskirts of the city of Enerhodar, to whose territory the plant belongs. “Apparently, it (the power plant) will be used for another provocation to then blame the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” the intelligence agency said, without giving details.

Regardless of this, Ukraine accuses Russia of using the nuclear power plant as a protective shield to shell villages on the opposite side of the Dnieper River, which is dammed up to the lake – knowing full well that the Ukrainian military will not shoot back for fear of a nuclear accident.

Also on Sunday there was artillery shelling of unknown origin on a residential area of ​​Enerhodar. Both sides unanimously reported one civilian killed. The power plant operator Enerhoatom said that he was an employee at the nuclear power plant.

“Ukrainian nationalists fired rockets at a residential area of ​​Enerhodar,” the Russian occupation administration said, according to TASS agency. The city’s Ukrainian mayor, Dmytro Orlov, spoke of a “murderous provocation” by the occupiers. There was no independent confirmation of the incident.

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