HANDOUT - 02.09.2019, Ukraine, Enerhodar: Auf diesem Satellitenfoto von Planet Labs PBC ist das Kernkraftwerk Saporischschja in Enerhodar, Ukraine, am 2. September 2019 zu sehen. Bei Russlands Krieg gegen die Ukraine ist die Anlage von Europas größtem Atomkraftwerk unter Beschuss geraten. Foto: Planet Labs Pbc/Planet Labs PBC via AP/dpa - ACHTUNG: Nur zur redaktionellen Verwendung und nur mit vollständiger Nennung des vorstehenden Credits bis zum 18. März 2022. +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

The Ukraine was recently able to report major successes in its counter-offensive to liberate the Russian-occupied city of Cherson in the south. Several bridges are said to have been destroyed in the past week with the help of Himar’s precision multiple rocket launchers supplied from the West – and with them central supply routes for Russia’s troops. British intelligence even reported: “Russia’s 49th Army on the west bank of the Dnieper is now very vulnerable.”

However, these success reports should not hide the fact that Ukraine, too, has repeatedly had to contend with massive problems in its southern offensive. Probably the most serious at the moment is probably Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhia. On the east bank of the Dnieper and directly opposite the town of Nikopol, the Russian troops have a direct view of the Ukrainian positions.

The nuclear power plant site, which has been under Russian control since March 3, turned into a veritable fortress in July. Two weeks ago, reporters from the Wall Street Journal reported that Russian artillery pieces were located around the nuclear power plant.

In addition to tanks, a BM-30 multiple rocket launcher is stationed between the reactor towers. In addition, according to the operating company Enerhoatom, the Russian army is said to have brought 500 soldiers to the site.

“They hide there so they can’t be hit,” Nikopol Mayor Oleksandr Sayuk told the New York Times. “Why else would they be there? Using such an object as a shield is very dangerous,” Sayuk continued.

In the immediate vicinity of the six pressurized water reactors and the sealed nuclear waste containers, Russian troops can fire on the city of Nikopol and other Ukrainian positions with almost no problems. Because the risk of an incident at the nuclear power plant is simply too great for a Ukrainian counterattack.

150 kilometers further south near Nova-Kakhovka, a dam over the Dnieper forms one of the last supply routes for the Russian troops. When recapturing Cherson, the Ukrainian troops could not avoid capturing or destroying the dam. Constant Russian artillery fire from Zaporizhia is likely to make the task even more difficult.

The further Ukraine advances towards Cherson, the more urgent the strategic war problem becomes. And there doesn’t seem to be a quick fix. Serhiy Shatalov, who is leading one of the Ukrainian infantry battalions in the direction of the dam, is also increasingly perplexed by the situation around the nuclear power plant.

After a few weeks of Himar’s strikes, the Russian artillery was largely silent – with the exception of the Russian units at the nuclear power plant, he says in an interview with the “New York Times”. “How can we govern this? After all, it is a nuclear power plant,” he says, describing the dilemma.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is also concerned about the nuclear power plant. For months she has been trying to ensure that her inspectors can examine the plant. IAEA chief Rafael Grossi described the situation on the ground about two weeks ago as “unsustainable”. For example, important maintenance work on the nuclear power plant is constantly being postponed and essential equipment is not delivered, which leads to an increased risk of accidents.

There are also reports of physical violence and ransom demands that the Russian soldiers are said to have used to harass the nuclear power plant employees and their families.