RUSSIA has threatened to blow up Europe’s largest nuclear power plant and planted explosives on the site, Ukraine has claimed.
State-run nuclear agency Energoatom accused Vladimir Putin’s forces of being “ready to blow up” the atomic plant in Zaporizhzhia (ZNPP).
A Russian serviceman patrols the territory of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear PlantCredit: AFP
Russian military vehicles drive through the gates of the ZNPPCredit: AFP
It is feared the Russians could blow up the power stationCredit: Reuters
Russia and Ukraine have both accused the other of shelling around the plant in recent days and damaging radiation sensors.
The fears of a nuclear catastrophe similar to Chernobyl are looming over the war-torn country with accusations of “nuclear blackmail”.
It has been long feared that Russia wants to use ZNPP – the biggest nuke plant in Europe – as strategic leverage, a “nuclear shield”, and to control part of the energy to southern Ukraine.
Energoatom has now outright accused Russia of “declaring their readiness to blow up” Zaporizhzhia.
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 across Ukraine, southern Russia and that could reach into Europe.
“If [ZNPP] blows up, it will be 10 times larger than Chernobyl,” Ukraine foreign minister warned in April.
Radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 left more than 77,000 square miles of land contaminated – and the fallout cloud was even detected in the UK.
Ukrainian news agencies have also picked on the claims, which cite without source remarks by Russian Major General Valery Vasiliev.
It is reported the Russian commander boasted that around ZNPP “there will either [be] Russian land or a scorched desert”.
Kyiv channels accused Russia of planting explosives at the plant, including on key infrasture.
Again, these claims have not been verified and are at this stage accusations levied at Russia by Ukraine.
General Vasiliev reportedly said: “We mined all the important objects of the [ZNPP].
“And we do not hide this from the enemy. We warned them.
“The enemy knows that the station will be either Russian or nobody’s. We are ready for the consequences of this step.”
He added: “If there is the most severe order – we must fulfill it with honor.”
It is impossible to assess the scale 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 blackmailing at the Zaporizhzhya NPP.”
He added: “Europe is under threat.”
The Sun Online has contacted the UK Ministry of Defence and the Russian Embassy in London for comment on the claims.
Ukraine’s Centre for Strategic Communications and Information Security also repeated the accusations.
“Russian troops have wired energy units of Zaporizhia nuclear power plant with explosives,” it said.
“Major General Vasilyev, commander of the garrison stationed at the plant, announced readiness to blow up the plant, leading to a nuclear catastrophe.”
And meanwhile, Ukrainian official Anton Gerashchenko said it was “nuclear blackmail for the whole world”.
Speaking earlier today, Petro Kotin, the head of Energoatom, called for the ZNPP to be made a military free zone.
And he warned shelling around the plant risks a “Chernobyl-style nuclear disaster”.
He called for a team of peacekeepers to be deployed at the site in comments on television.
Mr Kotin said: “If one container of spent nuclear fuel is broken, it will be a local accident in the plant and the surrounding area.
“If there are two or three containers, it will be much larger. It is impossible to assess the scale of this catastrophe.”
He described the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) reaction to the situation at the site over the last five months as “sluggish”, but said there were signs that that was changing.
“Now there is movement in their position, and we hope that the situation will be taken under the control of international organisations,” he said.
Kotin said 500 Russian soldiers and 50 pieces of heavy machinery including tanks, trucks and armoured infantry vehicles were at the site.
Two people were wounded by shrapnel during the shelling and were in hospital, he said – and claimed Ukrainians on site were given no where to shelter.
Russia has said it was ready to facility a visit by the IAEA to the ZNPP.
It comes after UN chief Antonio Guterres warned the world is starting down the “loaded gun” of nuclear armageddon.
He used his visit the Japanese city of Hiroshoma on the 77th anniversary of the first atomic bomb attack to sound the alarm.
“We must ask: What have we learned from the mushroom cloud that swelled above this city?” he said.
“Humanity is playing with a loaded gun.”
And elsewhere, British general Sir Richard Barrons warned that Putin is “likely” to turn his warn in Ukraine nuclear if he thinks he might lose.
The decorated commander – who retired in 2016 – explained that the Russian doctrine accepts the use of small nuclear weapons as a means of “coercion”.
“It would be the first use of nuclear weapons for 77 years, breaking an enormous taboo, but this is not inconceivable to Russians if the ends justify it in their eyes,” he wrote in The Sunday Times.
Sir Richard warned the West needs to consider the fact Putin is now “likely to employ tactical nuclear weapons” if he faces being pushed back.
He explained that a Russian nuclear strike in Ukraine would not be using massive city-killing bombs which could completely level parts of London or New York.
Russian doctrine instead demands smaller weapons for such battlefield use – possibly less powerful than the nukes dropped by the US as the end of World War 2.
Even the comparably “small” size of these weapons – the Fat Man and Little Boy – killed more than 200,000 people and wrought unspeakable horrors on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Putin had hoped his war would be over in a matter of days, with it suggested he could potentially launch a blitzkrieg assault to seize Kyiv.
But this never happened – and some 164 days on the war continues to be a bloody, brutal and grinding conflict laced with unspeakable atrocities committed by the Russians.
And with every day, week and month that sleeps by, the looming shadow of nuclear war is cast long over Ukraine.
Moscow’s war doctrine is believed to be open to using nuclear weapons in a conventional conflict as an intimidation tactic – and use of such a weapon must be signed off personally by Putin.
Western nations continue to support Kyiv 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.
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