Footage has emerged which proves that Russia is attacking Europe’s largest nuclear plant, according to Ukraine’s atomic watchdog, threatening the continent with a disaster ‘on the scale of Fukushima’.
The video, which gives a first look inside the occupied power station at Zaporizhzhia, was taken by Ukrainian workers during an attack at the weekend and captures the sound of what appears to be mortar shells being fired and landing.
Barely a second passes between the sound of the mortar going off and the subsequent explosion, something that nuclear boss Petro Kotin says proves the fire must be coming from Russian forces which occupy the surrounding territory.
The reason for the attacks, Kotin says, is because Russian forces are trying to destroy power lines that connect the plant to Ukraine’s power grid – while also creating a dangerous situation that they can blame on Kyiv.
Video of an attack on Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant captures the sound of what seems to be a mortar going off and an explosion barely a second later – suggesting it was being fired from nearby, in Russian-controlled territory
Smoke is seen rising from the nuclear power plant Thursday after fresh attacks, which Ukraine says are being carried out by Russia in a ‘false flag’ operation
More smoke is seen rising at Zaporizhzhia, which Ukraine says has been turned into a military base by Putin’s forces – risking a nuclear disaster
He added that Russian troops occupying the plant had all disappeared into bunkers shortly before the mortars opened fire while leaving the Ukrainian workers they are holding hostage above ground, in further evidence that Moscow is to blame.
Kotin says Russian occupiers want to funnel power being generated at the plant from Ukraine to Crimea, which was disconnected from the rest of the country’s power grid back in 2015 after it was annexed by Russia.
Currently, just one of the three power lines linking the plant to the Ukrainian grid is working – with Kotin telling The Times that the situation is highly precarious because severing the last line would cause a power cut to the reactors.
That would mean the plant’s cooling system would have to run off diesel generators, which only have enough fuel for two weeks.
Once that fuel runs out, the Russians or the Ukrainian workers they are holding hostage would need to manually pump water through cooling tanks to keep the reactors stable. Failure to do that could cause a meltdown.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that Russia has turned the power plant into a military base, stationing armoured vehicles and explosive ammunition in and around the reactors.
‘About 50 heavy vehicles with explosive materials are on the territory of the plant,’ Kotin said. ‘It’s a dangerous situation.
‘The situation has become worse over the past two weeks, when they put 14 heavy weapons vehicles in the turbine halls of reactors number one and six in number two.
‘If any of their explosive materials were to detonate there it would cause a huge fire without the possibility of putting it out before it reaches the reactor.’
A fire in any of the six reactors could trigger a disaster on par with Fukushima – the Japanese nuclear plant that suffered a meltdown after it was hit by a tsunami in 2011.
President Zelensky last night denounced what he called ‘Russian terrorism’, accusing the Kremlin of ‘threatening the whole world’ with radioactive fallout.
‘Absolutely everyone in the world should react immediately to expel the occupiers from the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,’ he said.
‘This is a global interest, not just a Ukrainian need.’
Speaking last night at a UN summit to discuss the situation at Zaporizhzhia, Rafael Grossi – head of the global nuclear watchdog IAEA – said news of attacks at the plant were ‘very alarming’.
Ukraine’s nuclear power agency says Russian troops are attempting to blow up power lines connecting the plant to Ukraine’s power grid
Russian troops have occupied the power plant since early March, but have kept Ukrainian engineers hostage there so they can continue running it
Grossi urged Russia and Ukraine to immediately allow nuclear experts to assess damage and evaluate safety and security at the sprawling nuclear complex where the situation ‘has been deteriorating very rapidly.’
He pointed to shelling and several explosions at Zaporizhzhia last Friday that forced the shutdown of the electrical power transformer and two backup transformers, forcing the shutdown of one nuclear reactor.
Grossi demanded a halt to military actions ‘that have even the smallest potential to jeopardize nuclear safety’ at such an important installation.
While a preliminary assessment by experts found ‘no immediate threat to nuclear safety’ at the plant from the shelling and military actions, ‘this could change at any moment,’ he warned.
Grossi’s appeal echoed U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call earlier Thursday for an end to all military activity around the Zaporizhzhia plant, warning that any damage could lead to ‘catastrophic consequences’ in the vicinity, the region and beyond.
Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, gave a virtual briefing to the U.N. Security Council at a meeting called by Russia to discuss what Moscow claims were Ukrainian attacks on the plant.
While the plant is controlled by Russia, its Ukrainian staff continues to run the nuclear operations. It is in Enerhodar, a city seized by Russian troops in early March soon after they invaded Ukraine.
Grossi said statements received from Russia and Ukraine ‘are frequently contradicted’ and the IAEA can’t corroborate important facts unless its experts visit Zaporizhzhia.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council that ‘Kyiv’s criminal attacks on nuclear infrastructure are pushing the world to the brink of nuclear catastrophe.’
He accused Ukrainian armed forces in recent days of repeatedly using heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems to shell the Zaporizhzhia plant, including on Thursday.
‘The background radiation at the nuclear power plant at the moment is within limits, but if the strikes continue it is only a question of time,’ Nebenzia warned. ‘We call on states that support the Kyiv regime to bring their proxies into check to compel them to immediately and once and for all stop attacks.’
Rafael Grossi, head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog, addresses a summit in New York calling for international inspectors to be given urgent access to the plant
Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, accused Russia of using ‘elaborate plans of deceit, sabotage and cover-ups’ to stage the shelling at Zaporizhzhia, including on Thursday, which poses ‘an unprecedented threat to nuclear security for Ukraine, to Europe and the world as a whole.’
The Ukrainian state company operating the plant, Enerhoatom, said there was renewed Russian shelling of the Zaporizhzhia facility and nearby buildings Thursday.
‘Five (hits) were recorded near the plant management’s office – right next to the welding site and the storage facility for radiation sources,’ Enerhoatom said in a post on its official Telegram channel. ‘The grass caught fire over a small area, but fortunately, no one was hurt.’
Ukraine’s ambassador told the council the only way to remove the nuclear threats is by withdrawing Russian troops and returning the plant to Ukraine’s control.
Nebenzia said Russia supported an IAEA visit in June to Zaporizhzhia, which was given ‘a red light’ at the last minute by U.N. security experts. Moscow is ready to provide ‘all possible assistance’ to resolve any issues for a visit ‘even before the end of August,’ he said.
Yevhen Balytskyy, the Kremlin-installed temporary head of the Zaporizhzhia region, said Thursday that the Russia-backed administration there stood ready to ensure the safety and security of any IAEA delegation sent to investigate conditions.
He said in an interview on Russian state TV that the Kremlin-backed authorities had prepared armored vehicles for the international envoys.
Kyslytsya blamed Russia’s ‘unjustified conditions’ for the delay in getting IAEA experts to Zaporizhzhia, and said Ukraine stands ready to provide ‘all necessary assistance’ to facilitate the nuclear team’s travels through Ukrainian-controlled territory, which is just five miles from the plant across the Dnieper River.
Bonnie Jenkins, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control, called the situation at Zaporizhzhia ‘another tragic result’ of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
She said the solution is straightforward: Russia should immediately withdraw its forces from Ukraine so Ukrainians can to restore ‘the impeccable safety, security, and safeguards performance it upheld for decades at the facility.’
At the end of the council meeting, Grossi said there was ‘a common denominator’ among the 15 members: ‘Everybody agrees that nuclear safety and security must be preserved. . And everybody believes that this mission must take place.’
‘So, it’s no longer a matter of if, it’s only a matter of when,’ the U.N. nuclear chief said. ‘The when must be as soon as possible.’
Guterres appealed in a statement ‘for common sense and reason’ to avoid any actions ‘that might endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the nuclear plant,’ and for the withdrawal of all military personnel and equipment.
The Russian capture of Zaporizhzhia renewed fears that reactors at the largest of Ukraine’s four nuclear plants could be damaged, setting off another emergency like the 1986 Chernobyl accident, the world’s worst nuclear disaster. That happened about 110 kilometers (65 miles) north of the capital Kyiv.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told defense leaders at a conference in Copenhagen on Thursday that the consequences of a radiation accident at Zaporizhzhia ‘could be even more catastrophic than Chernobyl, and essentially the same as the use of nuclear weapons by Russia, but without a nuclear strike.’
‘If the Soviet authorities tried to hide the Chernobyl disaster and its full consequences, Russian authorities are much more cynical and dangerous,’ he said. ‘They are doing everything themselves to maximize the risk of a nuclear disaster, and lie to the whole world that someone else is allegedly to blame.’