Europe’s largest nuclear power plant hangs in the balance as Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his government on Wednesday to take control over the Zaphorizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) but offered up little details.
“The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is now on the territory of the Russian Federation and, accordingly, should be operated under the supervision of our relevant agencies,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin was quoted as saying by Russia media outlet RIA.
Vershinin’s comments followed steps by Putin Wednesday to formally annex the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – home to the mammoth power station.
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Russian forces have occupied the ZNPP since March, but Ukrainian technicians have continued to operate the plant with some Russian nuclear officials there reportedly keeping an eye on Ukraine’s activities.
The plant has been under a continuous threat as a number of strikes and near-misses have harmed the integrity of the plant and disrupted operations that officials have warned could have resulted in a nuclear catastrophe.
Vershinin did not specify if Russian nuclear operators would be brought in to take over the plant’s operations.
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Russian soldiers detained the plant’s Director General Ihor Murashov Friday just moments after Putin laid claim to the four regions following referenda in Ukraine that allegedly showed “overwhelming” support for annexation.
Murashov was released earlier this week, after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it had contacted Moscow for details on the apparent kidnapping.
Whether Murshov has resumed his duties at the plant remains unclear, though IAEA staff have remained at the ZNPP despite the security concerns as fighting continues to rage in the area.
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi is reportedly set to head to Moscow in the coming days to discuss the plant’s operations to ensure its security, Russian news outlet TASS claimed Tuesday.
Intense fighting continues in all four regions that Putin has claimed will now “forever” be a part of Russia and Moscow has yet to fully control any Ukrainian regions since its February invasion.