Is Vladimir Putin planning a staged nuclear accident at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, which is occupied by Russian troops? And then blame Ukraine for the radioactivity leak threatening the health of millions?
This concern has been moving many people for days. On Friday, a report by the “New York Times” caused fear to grow again.
The Russian nuclear experts from the Russian state-owned company Rosatom, which controls the largest nuclear power plant in Europe since it was captured by the Russian military in March, left the plant on Thursday.
At the same time, a video was shared online showing Russian military vehicles inside the buildings containing the reactor blocks. The Ukrainian employees locked up in the nuclear power plant are in mortal fear, the newspaper reports, citing an eyewitness in the nuclear power plant.
Experts had been warning of an unintentional nuclear accident as a result of the fighting for Zaporizhia for weeks. According to numerous military analyses, the Russian military uses the nuclear power plant as a protective shield.
From there, his troops fired at Ukrainian positions with various weapons in the expectation that the Ukrainians would not be able to fire back with their arsenal for fear of triggering a meltdown.
In addition to administration buildings, the outer shells of the reactors, which were several layers of concrete, were also hit. So far, however, they have held up.
The new allegations go beyond the general risk of war. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Moscow of deliberately trying to bring about a nuclear disaster during his meeting with UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan in Lviv on Thursday.
Conversely, the Russian Ministry of Defense claims that Ukraine is preparing “a terrorist attack” on the nuclear plant. Their military, said Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian National Security Council, on Friday, fired at the nuclear plant with weapons supplied by the United States.
“If a disaster strikes, the consequences will be felt in all corners of the world. Washington, London and their henchmen will bear the responsibility for this.”
Russian propaganda does not explain why Ukraine should have an interest in radioactively contaminating the region around Zaporizhia and Dnipro, two of the country’s largest cities. Conversely, since the beginning of the war, Putin has consistently fueled Western fears of the nuclear threat.
He wants Western governments to stop supporting Ukraine militarily and he can sign a ceasefire on his terms. Sometimes the Kremlin threatens to use nuclear weapons, sometimes it warns of reactor catastrophes in one of the Ukrainian nuclear power plants, first in Chernobyl and now in Zaporizhia.
The international community is demanding the withdrawal of the military from the nuclear power plant and free access for experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Russia rejects both. It must retain control of the nuclear power plants because Ukraine is unable to guarantee their safety.
This narrative plays a central role in Putin’s world of ideas, according to Veronika Wendland, a historian of Eastern Europe at the Herder Institute in Marburg and a specialist in the history of technology. The development of Ukrainian national consciousness and state identity is closely linked to techno symbols.
This includes mastering nuclear power and making the country independent in terms of energy policy, Wendland recently explained in a lecture at the University of Mainz. In Putin’s world, on the other hand, Ukraine depends on Russian leadership to achieve anything.
For Miriam Kosmehl, the Bertelsmann Foundation’s Eastern Europe expert, reporting on the dangers posed by the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant is an example of a false attempt at neutrality. Western media tended to juxtapose Ukrainian and Russian claims on an equal footing. “One side is deliberately lying.”
The experience of more than six months of war has shown that “a general distrust of Russia is appropriate”. Reports in the tone of equidistance, because both sides must be treated with suspicion, “deny the reality we are dealing with here,” complains Kosmehl.
Moscow “is misleading the Western public with the allegedly unclear situation it has created itself,” says the expert. At Zaporizhia nuclear plant, “Ukrainian nuclear experts have been working at gunpoint for a long time. Russian troops are storing weapons in a nuclear power plant and are firing at Ukrainians from there.”