Russia Is Playing A Dangerous Game With Europe’s Largest Nuclear Plant

A Russian envoy to the United Nations says Moscow has requested a meeting of the UN Security Council on August 11 to discuss issues concerning the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, which its troops seized early in the five-month-old invasion of Ukraine.

First Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy also confirmed on August 10 that Russia wanted the head of the UN's atomic energy agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, to brief attendees at the meeting.

It would follow increasingly urgent international safety concerns and with the Russian occupiers reportedly preparing to redirect its electricity production in a dangerous pivot that relies on diesel generators and other aging technology.

Desperate safety warnings from Ukrainian and UN atomic experts have been compounded in the past week by intensified shelling around Zaporizhzhya and accusations and counteraccusations of risky behavior by the warring sides.

Operator Enerhoatom and exhausted Ukrainian workers still manning the facility five months after its capture by Russian forces have repeatedly warned of the risks of a nuclear catastrophe.

Zaporizhzhya is Europe's largest nuclear plant, and it houses six of Ukraine's 15 reactors.

On August 9, Enerhoatom also warned that the occupiers were preparing to redirect Zaporizhzhya's output to Crimea, which Russia forcibly annexed from Ukraine eight years ago.

Enerhoatom President Petro Kotin told Ukrainian television that Russian energy agency Rosatom's plan was "aimed at connecting the [Zaporizhzhya] plant to the Crimean electricity grid."

He said doing that requires damaging power lines that lead to the Ukrainian grid and said at least three lines were already damaged, leaving Zaporizhzhya "operating with only one production line, which is an extremely dangerous way of working."

"When the last production line is disconnected," he said, "the plant will be powered by generators running on diesel. Everything will then depend on their reliability and fuel stocks."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on August 8 called any attack on a nuclear plant "suicidal" and demanded that UN inspectors be given access to Zaporizhzhya.

On August 9, the IAEA's Grossi said of reports of recent shelling damage that, based on the information provided by Ukraine, "IAEA experts assessed that there was no immediate threat to nuclear safety as a result of [shelling on August 6]."

The same day, Yevhen Balytskiy, the head of the Russian military administration in the region around Zaporizhzhya told Russian television that "the power plant's air-defense systems are being reinforced."

Kyiv and some Western leaders have accused Russia of "nuclear blackmail" through its army's actions with respect to Zaporizhzhya and other Ukrainian nuclear facilities and Moscow's repeated hints that it might deploy its nuclear arsenal in response to Western actions stemming from the Ukraine conflict.

Ukrainian officials have blamed shelling that killed at least 13 civilians overnight on August 9-10 on Russian forces operating in or around Zaporizhzhya.

On August 10, the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized countries demanded that Russia return control of the Zaporizhzhya plant to Ukraine.

By RFE/RL