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Ukraine warns of Russia nuclear plant attack plot

June 22, 2023

The Ukrainian president says a plot has been uncovered showing that Russia might stage a "terrorist" incident — including the release of radiation — at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

A Russian soldier stands guard at a checkpoint at the occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine
Fresh water is needed to cool the decommissioned reactors at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plantImage: Alexander Ermochenko/REUTERS

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Thursday that Ukrainian spies have received information showing Russia is considering carrying out a "terrorist" attack at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

While there have been persistent fears about the enormous nuclear plant throughout Russia's war in Ukraine, the breach of a dam that provided the plant's cooling water has exacerbated concern.

What we know about the alleged plot

Speaking in a video statement on the Telegram platform, Zelenskyy said Kyiv was sharing information about the Russian-occupied facility in southern Ukraine with European allies, the United States, China and India.

"Intelligence has received information that Russia is considering the scenario of a terrorist act at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant — a terrorist act with the release of radiation," he said. "They have prepared everything for this."

Zelenskyy said the plan involves a release of radiation. The Ukrainian president did not say what evidence was behind the assertion by intelligence agencies.

"Unfortunately, I have had to remind [people] more than once that radiation knows no state borders. And who it will hit is determined only by the direction of the wind," Zelenskiy said.

Russia dismissed the allegations as a lie, adding that UN nuclear inspectors had visited the plant and gave high ratings to what they saw at the site.

Nuclear experts reassured, for now

Composed of six reactors, the Zaporizhzhia complex is Europe's biggest nuclear plant. It has been occupied by Russian forces since shortly after Moscow launched its invasion in February last year.

Moscow says the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, will travel to Russia on Friday for talks about the nuclear facility.

The Russian Foreign Ministry says Grossi will meet Alexei Likhachev, head of the Moscow nuclear agency Rosatom, in the Baltic Sea region of Kaliningrad. However, the IAEA has not yet confirmed the meeting.

Grossi visited the plant last week after the destruction of the Kakhovka dam, describing the situation there as serious but stable.

Fresh water is needed to cool the decommissioned reactors and nuclear waste, and the complex received its cooling water from the Kakhovka reservoir — now emptying after a dam was destroyed.

The IAEA said water reserves in the cooling ponds were still sufficient to last several months, but that there were still concerns about how sustainable interim measures might prove.

rc/rs (dpa, AFP)

Ukraine: Explosion of Kakhovka dam