Russia says Ukraine plans ‘provocation’ at nuclear power plant; Kiev rejects accusation

  • Kiev says the solution is simple, Russia must leave the factory
  • Russia denies using weapons on or around factory
  • UN chief Guterres visits Ukraine

LONDON, Aug. 18 (Reuters) – Russia said on Thursday there was a risk of a man-made disaster at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant and accused Kiev and the West of planning “provocation” there on Friday during a visit to Ukraine by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

A Ukrainian official dismissed what he portrayed as a cynical claim by Moscow, saying that Russian troops should leave the factory they captured shortly after invading Ukraine nearly six months ago, demine it and remove all ammunition stored there. .

The Zaporizhzhya nuclear reactor complex (ZNPP), the largest in Europe, has been shelled repeatedly, with both Moscow and Kiev being blamed.

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Russia says Ukrainian troops are recklessly firing at the plant, but Ukraine says Russia is deliberately using the reactor complex as a base to launch attacks against the population.

Russia’s foreign ministry said at a press conference that a proposal by Guterres to demilitarize the area around the factory was “unacceptable”. read more

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told reporters that Moscow was taking steps to ensure security in the complex and denied having deployed heavy weapons in and around the factory.

However, the ministry said an attempt to shut down the factory could be attempted if the shelling continues. read more

Yevgeny Balitsky, head of the Russian-installed administration in the Zaporizhzhya region, previously said there was a risk that shelling could damage the reactor complex’s cooling system and said the plant was operating with only one unit.

It is not clear how the plant would be shut down, but the ministry said two of the plant’s six units could be placed in “cold reserve”. The plant accounts for one fifth of Ukraine’s annual electricity production.

Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom said closing the plant would increase the risk of “a radiation disaster at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant”. Disconnecting the complex’s generators from Ukraine’s power system would prevent them from being used to keep nuclear fuel cool in the event of a power outage at the plant, it said on the Telegram messaging app.

‘PROVOCATION’

The Russian defense ministry accused Ukraine and what it called its “American handlers” of trying to stage a “minor accident” at the factory in southern Ukraine to blame Russia.

It said the “provocation” was planned to coincide with a visit to Ukraine by UN chief Guterres, who arrived in Lviv on Wednesday and would visit the Black Sea port of Odessa on Friday, and that it is possible to radiation leak.

Reuters could not verify Russia’s claim.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, rejected the Russian Defense Ministry’s comments, saying it was “laughing cynically”.

“There is a solution. You just need to get the (ammunition) out of the halls, clear the buildings, free the factory staff from the cells, stop shelling (the southern city) Nikopol of ( the factory) ground and the station,” he wrote on Twitter.

In a briefing, Igor Kirillov, chief of Russia’s radioactive, chemical and biological forces, said the plant’s backup systems had been damaged as a result of shelling.

Kirillov presented a slide showing that in the event of an accident at the plant, radioactive material would cover Germany, Poland and Slovakia.

Guterres, who will meet Zelenskiy later on Thursday, has called for an end to all fighting near the factory.

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Reporting by Reuters; adaptation by Mark Heinrich, Bernadette Baum and Alex Richardson

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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