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Reactor building at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is the largest in Europe and is considered a major risk amid the conflictImage: Smoliyenko Dmytro/Ukrinform/ABACA/picture alliance
ConflictsUkraine

Russia accused of 'kidnapping' nuclear plant head

October 1, 2022

The head of Europe's largest nuclear power plant was kidnapped, Ukraine's nuclear power company said. Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces surrounded some 5,000 Russian soldiers in the key city of Lyman. Follow DW for the latest.

https://p.dw.com/p/4HcYM

Ukraine's nuclear power provider on Saturday accused Russia of kidnapping the head of Europe's largest nuclear power plant, a facility now under the control of Russian forces.

Ihor Murashov, the director-general of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, was seized by Russian forces on Friday afternoon, Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom said.

"There is no knowledge of his fate," Energoatom President Petro Kotin wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Russian troops stopped Murashov's car, blindfolded him and then took him to an undisclosed location, according to Energoatom.

"His detention by [Russia] jeopardizes the safety of Ukraine and Europe's largest nuclear power plant," Kotin said.

Kotin called for Murashov's immediate release.

Russia did not immediately acknowledge seizing the facility's director. However, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) later said that Russia had told it that "the director-general of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was temporarily detained to answer questions."

The IAEA said that it "has been actively seeking clarifications and hopes for a prompt and satisfactory resolution of this matter."

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has repeatedly been caught in the crossfire since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Ukrainian technicians continued running it after Russian troops seized control the power station and surrounding area in March.

The plant's last reactor was shut down in September amid ongoing shelling near the facility in southeastern Ukraine.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which has staff at the plant, said it contacted Russian officials over the kidnapping claim.

"We have contacted Russian authorities and are requesting clarifications," a spokesperson for the UN nuclear watchdog said.

The IAEA has warned that fighting risks igniting a nuclear catastrophe and has called for a "safety and security zone" to be set around the plant.

Zaporizhzhia is one of the four Ukrainian regions illegally annexed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday.

Nuclear expert accuses Russia of 'stealing' Zaporizhzhia power plant

Here is more news from or concerning the war in Ukraine on Saturday, October 1:

Zelenskyy vows to 'raise more flags' over Russian-held territories

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed on Saturday to recapture more of his country's territories in the eastern Donbas region currently under Russian control.

Zelenskyy was delivering his evening address after Ukrainian forces declared taking control of Lyman in the Russian-annexed Donetsk region.

"Throughout this week, more Ukrainian flags have been raised in the Donbas. There will be even more in a week," the president said.

His address shortly followed a video posted by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry from what was identified as the city center of Lyman. Ukrainian forces were seen in the video tearing down Russian flags from atop the building and replacing them with the Ukrainian blue and yellow flag.

Russia's Defense Ministry acknowledged its outnumbered troops did withdraw from Lyman, saying the pulled troops were deployed to more favorable positions.

The Ukrainian recapture of Lyman came only a day after Russia annexed four regions of Ukraine, including the key city.

German Defense Minister Lambrecht in first Ukraine visit

Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht on Saturday made her first trip to Ukraine since the conflict erupted. 

During the visit, Lambrecht inspected armored anti-aircraft Gepard ("Cheetah") tanks provided by Germany.

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (second from right) and her Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov (right) stand in front of a German Gepard anti-aircraft tank in Odesa, Ukraine. October 1, 2022.
Christine Lambrecht and her counterpart Oleksii Reznikov viewed German weaponry provided to Ukraine during the visitImage: Jörg Blank/dpa/picture alliance

Speaking at the grain harbor in Odesa, Lambrecht said that this equipment was helping defend "critical infrastructure" and repel Russian airstrikes.

In talks with her Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksii Reznikov, Lambrecht also said that a promised air defense system, IRIS-T Surface Launched Medium Range vehicles, would arrive within a few days. 

Lambrecht's visit was kept quiet prior to her arrival. At one point an air raid siren in Odesa forced her to shelter in a bunker. A planned visit closer to the front, in Mykolaiv, had to be canceled amid risk of Russian artillery and rocket attack.

Early in the war, both weapons deliveries and high-ranking German politicians visiting Ukraine became a sore bilateral topic between Berlin and Kyiv. Ukraine and some of its allies felt Germany was too slow to abandon its post-war conventions on importing weapons to active warzones and send assistance. 

A first German government visit was delayed by several weeks in the aftermath of Ukraine telling German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier that he was not wanted in Kyiv — which initially led to government ministers saying they couldn't travel either if their head of state was not welcome.

Thousands of Russian soldiers surrounded in Lyman, Kyiv says

Ukrainian forces on Saturday encircled some 5,000 Russian troops in the eastern town of Lyman, a part of Ukraine illegally annexed by Moscow on Friday.

"The Russian grouping in the area of Lyman is surrounded," a Ukrainian military spokesperson said on television, adding that the operation to regain control over the region was not over.

Russian media several hours later quoted the Defense Ministry as saying Russian troops had pulled out of Lyman "in connection with the creation of a threat of encirclement."

The region served as a logistics and transport hub for Russian military operations in the north of the Donetsk region. Should Ukrainian forces gain total control of Lyman, it would allow them to start further advances into the Luhansk region, which Russia has occupied since July and also claimed a part of its territory. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly vowed to liberate all Ukrainian territory occupied by Russian forces.

Turkey rejects Moscow's new 'annexations' in Ukraine

Moscow's proclaimed annexation of four regions in Ukraine is a "grave violation" of international law, and the decision is rejected by Ankara, Turkey's Foreign Ministry has said.

The ministry said it had not recognized Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and would not accept that of  Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia announced on Friday.

"We reiterate our support to the resolution of this war, the severity of which keeps growing, based on a just peace that will be reached through negotiations," it added.

NATO member Turkey has up to now been somewhat ambiguous in its stance on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, opposing Western sanctions imposed on Moscow while at the same time criticizing the military action and sending armed drones to Ukraine. It maintains close ties to both Moscow and Kyiv in a diplomatic balancing act.

Russia illegally annexes Ukrainian territory

Russia 'killing civilians it now claims are its own citizens': UK Ministry of Defence

Russian forces are "almost certainly" behind the missile attack on a convoy near Zaporizhzhia on Friday, which reportedly killed 25 civilians that are now Russian citizens according to Moscow's own declaration, the British Ministry of Defence has said in a daily intelligence update.

Russian President Vladimir Putin "signed annexation agreements for Zaporizhzhia and other parts of occupied Ukraine" on the same day as the attack, the update said.

It said the likely use of a Russian long-range air defense missile for a ground attack was a sign that Moscow's forces were very probably suffering shortages of munitions, in particular longer-range precision missiles.

"Russia is expending strategically valuable military assets in attempts to achieve tactical advantage and in the process is killing civilians it now claims are its own citizens," the update says.

More DW content on the war in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement on Friday of Moscow's annexation of four Ukrainian regions in flagrant contravention of international law has met with condemnation from around the world, as DW reports.

tj/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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