Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has issued a warning that Russia may be planning to “simulate an attack” on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Zelenskiy claims that Russian troops have placed objects resembling explosives on the roofs of buildings at the site.
Citing Ukrainian intelligence, Zelenskiy revealed that these objects were positioned on the roof of several power units within the power plant, which is currently under Russian control. The Ukrainian president discussed Russia’s “dangerous provocations” at the plant with French President Emmanuel Macron, and they agreed to closely monitor the situation in collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Zelenskiy’s latest warnings echo his previous statements made during a joint news conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. He expressed concern over the possibility of Russia provoking a local explosion at the station, which could lead to a release of radiation.
Since Russia seized the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in February 2022, both Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of shelling around the facility, posing a significant risk of a nuclear incident.
Accusations and Claims
Russia has countered Zelenskiy’s claims with accusations of its own. Renat Karchaa, an adviser to the head of Rosenergoatom, Russia’s nuclear operator, alleged that Ukraine planned to attack the Zaporizhzhia station using ammunition laced with nuclear waste from another nuclear facility. However, Karchaa provided no evidence to support this allegation.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian armed forces released a statement citing “operational data” that indicated explosive devices had been placed on the roofs of the station’s third and fourth reactors. They warned that an attack was possible in the near future and suggested that if detonated, the devices would create an image of shelling from the Ukrainian side.
Despite these claims, Zelenskiy and the Ukrainian military have not presented any evidence to substantiate their assertions.
Potential Threats and Concerns
Ukraine’s military intelligence directorate (GUR) recently claimed that Moscow had approved a plan to blow up the Zaporizhzhia station. The directorate stated that four of the plant’s six power units, as well as a cooling pond, had been mined. Additionally, it noted that Russian troops were reducing their presence at the plant, and Ukrainian employees who signed contracts with Rosatom were advised to evacuate, preferably to Crimea.
While damaging the reactors would be challenging, former plant workers have expressed concerns about the vulnerability of the small cooling pond to an explosion. Such an event could lead to a partial nuclear meltdown, similar to the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in the US. It is worth noting that in this scenario, most radiation would likely be contained, but the opening of ventilation channels could potentially result in the release of radiation.
Reuters contributed to this report.