Russia has threatened to blow up Europe’s largest nuclear power plant and placed explosives at the site, Ukraine has claimed.
The state-run nuclear agency Energoatom accused Vladimir Putin’s forces of being “ready to blow up the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant (ZNPP).
Russia and Ukraine have both accused each other of shelling around the factory in recent days and damaging radiation sensors.
Fears of a nuclear catastrophe similar to Chernobyl loom over the war-torn country with accusations of “nuclear blackmail”.
It has long been feared that Russia may want to use ZNPP – the largest nuclear power plant in Europe – as a strategic lever, a “nuclear shield”, and to control some of the energy to southern Ukraine.
Energoatom has now outright accused Russia of “declaring readiness to blow up Zaporizhzhya”.
The claim – which has not been independently verified – would be a significant escalation in the area, with the situation already being branded “suicidal” and “out of control”.
Blowing up the nuclear power plant could cause a nuclear disaster in Ukraine, southern Russia and that could reach Europe.
“If [ZNPP] explodes, it will be ten times bigger than Chernobyl,” Ukraine’s foreign minister warned in April.
Radiation from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster left more than 77,000 square miles of land polluted – and the precipitation cloud was even detected in the UK.
Ukrainian news agencies have also taken advantage of the claims, which are quoted without source comments by Russian Major General Valery Vasiliev.
It is reported that the Russian commander boasted that around ZNPP “there is either [be] Russian land or a scorched desert”.
Kiev channels accused Russia of placing explosives at the factory, including on key infrastructure.
Again, these claims have not been verified and are at this stage allegations against Russia by Ukraine.
General Vasiliev reportedly said: “We have all the important objects of the [ZNPP].
“And we’re not hiding this from the enemy. We’ve warned them.
“The enemy knows that the station will be Russia’s or nobody’s. We are ready for the consequences of this move.”
He added: “If there is a strict order, we must fulfill it with honor.”
It is impossible to estimate the magnitude of this catastrophe
The quotes have been widely shared by Ukrainian media and officials, but their source remains unclear.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser in Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, said: “[Russia] now openly uses nuclear blackmail at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant.”
He added: “Europe is under threat.”
The Sun Online has contacted the British Ministry of Defense and the Russian embassy in London for comment on the claims.
The Ukrainian Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security also repeated the allegations.
“Russian forces have wired the energy units of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant with explosives,” it said.
“Major General Vasilyev, commander of the garrison stationed at the factory, has announced that he will blow up the factory, which would lead to a nuclear catastrophe.”
And meanwhile, Ukrainian official Anton Gerashchenko said it was “nuclear blackmail for the whole world.”
Petro Kotin, the head of Energoatom, earlier today called for the ZNPP to be a military free zone.
And he warned that shelling around the factory could trigger a “Chernobyl-style nuclear disaster.”
He called for a team of peacekeepers on the site in television commentaries.
Mr Kotin said: “If a container of spent fuel breaks, it is a local accident in the factory and the surrounding area.
“If there are two or three containers, it will be much larger. It is impossible to estimate the magnitude of this catastrophe.”
He described the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) response to the situation at the site over the past five months as “weak”, but said there were signs that that was about to change.
“Now there is movement in their position and we hope that the situation will be brought under control of international organizations,” he said.
Kotin said 500 Russian soldiers and 50 pieces of heavy machinery, including tanks, trucks and armored infantry vehicles were at the site.
Two people were injured by shrapnel during the shelling and were hospitalized, he said – claiming that Ukrainians were not given shelter on the spot.
Russia has said it is willing to facilitate an IAEA visit to the ZNPP.
It comes after UN chief Antonio Guterres warned the world is beginning with the “loaded cannon” of nuclear Armageddon.
He used his visit to the Japanese city of Hiroshoma on the 77th anniversary of the first atomic bomb attack to sound the alarm.
NUCLEAR BLACK MAIL
“We have to ask ourselves: What have we learned from the mushroom cloud that swelled over this city?” he said.
“Humanity is playing with a loaded gun.”
And elsewhere, British General Sir Richard Barrons warned that Putin “probably” will nuclear his warning in Ukraine if he thinks he could lose.
The decorated commander – who retired in 2016 – explained that Russian doctrine accepts the use of small nuclear weapons as a means of “coercion”.
“It would be the first use of nuclear weapons in 77 years, breaking a huge taboo, but this is not inconceivable for Russians if the purposes justify it in their view,” he wrote in The Sunday Times.
Sir Richard warned the West should be mindful that Putin will now “probably use tactical nuclear weapons” if faced with pushback.
He explained that a Russian nuclear attack in Ukraine would not use massive city-killing bombs that could completely raze parts of London or New York.
Russian doctrine instead requires smaller weapons for such battlefield use — possibly less powerful than the nuclear weapons dropped by the US at the end of World War II.
Even the relatively “small” size of these weapons – the Fat Man and Little Boy – killed more than 200,000 people and caused unspeakable horrors on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Putin had hoped his war would be over in days, and he suggested he might launch a blitzkrieg attack to capture Kiev.
But this never happened – and some 164 days after the war, it is still a bloody, brutal and harrowing conflict, laced with unspeakable atrocities perpetrated by the Russians.
And with each day, week and month sleeping by, the looming shadow of nuclear war is long being cast over Ukraine.
Moscow’s war doctrine is open to the use of nuclear weapons in conventional conflict as an intimidation tactic — and the use of such a weapon must be personally approved by Putin.
Western countries continue to support Kiev in its fight against Putin with weapons and aid – but the ongoing conflict has plunged the world into tensions not seen since the Cold War.