Concerns grew after the British Ministry of Defense echoed accusations by the Ukrainian military that Russian forces are using the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine to fire on military positions across the Dnieper, but Western authorities played down the danger.
Russian forces are likely operating in areas adjacent to the power station and have used artillery units based in these areas to target Ukrainian territory on the west bank of the Dnipro River,” the UK Ministry of Defense (MOD) said. in his latest update on the situation in Ukraine.
“Russian forces likely used the wider installation area, particularly the adjacent town of Enerhodar, to rest their forces, using the protected status of the nuclear power plant to reduce the risk to their equipment and personnel from attacks. nocturnal Ukrainians.”
The MOD’s assessment echoes accusations by the mayor of the Russian-occupied city of Enerhodar, Dmytro Orlov, who said in late July that Russia was using the plant as a fortress. “They (Russian forces) know very well that the Ukrainian armed forces will not respond to these attacks, because they can damage the nuclear power plant,” Orlov told Ukrainian broadcaster Espreso TV.
A mixed picture: On Thursday, Western officials downplayed the likelihood of intense fighting in and around the nuclear power plant.
“Russia could use the site as a safe zone, from which to conduct defensive operations. Ukraine will consider very carefully how to avoid taking greater risks around the site,” the officials said.
“The area of the nuclear power plant site itself is too small an area to be very meaningful in terms of an advance. It could still be surrounded or bypassed by Ukraine,” the officials added. “It’s a consideration and something people need to be careful about in their planning, but it will in no way prevent progress.”
The MOD’s concerns come after International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the situation at the plant was “completely out of control”.
Grossi said he was trying to put together a mission, with the support of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, to visit the factory, but explained that actually going there was a “very complex thing”. , because “it requires understanding and cooperation”. Ukrainians and Russians occupying it.
A bit of context: Russia seized the plant, which is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, at the start of the war on March 5. A week later, on March 12, a team of officials and technicians from the Russian state nuclear agency, ROSATOM, arrived on the scene. to help run the plant and help with repairs, Ukraine’s nuclear agency, Energoatom, said.
The situation at the factory has remained complex ever since, with Ukrainian and Russian personnel working side by side. Communications between the plant and the IAEA were intermittent.
Military operations in the region, with an announced Ukrainian counter-offensive to take Kherson, have made the situation even more unstable, the IAEA said.
While Western officials understand some of the IAEA’s concerns, they “don’t think [the situation] is as bad as it has necessarily been painted in the media right now.
Officials went on to explain that factories like the one in Zaporizhzhia are built with multiple safeguards in place. “So please don’t think we’re looking at a Chernobyl-like situation, we’re not,” officials said. “We believe that overall the circumstances of this site are still correct.”
CNN has reached out to Rosatom for comment, but has not yet received a response.