(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 13, 2003, a US Marine carries an anti-tank "TOW" missile before firing practice on a fixed target in the Kuwaiti desert close to the Iraqi border. - The US Defense Department on August 19, 2022, announced a new $775 million package of defense equipment and ammunition for Ukraine, including various types of missiles, artillery and mine-clearing systems. the weapons include TOW missiles, Scan Eagle surveillance drone and high-speed anti-radiation (HARM) missiles (Photo by Jack GUEZ / AFP)

Ukraine fears that Russia wants to disconnect the country’s largest nuclear power plant from the national power grid. There are indications that Russian troops are preparing to shut down the reactors that are still in operation at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, the state-owned energy supplier Energoatom announced on Friday. A failure of electricity supplies from the huge plant – Zaporizhia is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe – would hit southern Ukraine in particular.

In the face of war and energy shortages, the country is preparing for the most difficult winter since independence. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that he would work with Russian President Vladimir Putin to resolve the dispute over the nuclear power plant.

“The Russian military is currently looking for fuel suppliers for diesel generators,” said Energoatom. The diesel generators were supposed to keep the cooling systems for the highly radioactive nuclear fuels running after the nuclear reactors were shut down. The company reiterated the accusation that Russia was preparing a “large-scale provocation”. Conversely, the government in Moscow had leveled exactly the same allegation against Ukraine.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has urged Russia not to disconnect Ukraine’s Zaporizhia nuclear power plant from the Ukrainian power grid. “Of course, Zaporizhia electricity is Ukrainian electricity (…). This principle must be fully respected,” Guterres said at a press conference in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa on Friday. The Ukrainian power plant operator Energoatom had previously expressed corresponding fears.

Internationally, special attention is paid to Zaporizhia, because a hit in the reactors could trigger a nuclear catastrophe similar to that in Chernobyl in 1986. At that time, not only was the immediate area permanently irradiated, but radioactive fallout also fell in several European countries. At the beginning of August, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, warned of fighting in the vicinity of the nuclear power plant before “playing with fire, with possible catastrophic consequences”. On Friday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the Russian military presence would guarantee that Chernobyl would not happen again.

The power plant was captured by Russian forces in March. It is close to the current front line. In the past, Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling the nuclear power plant. Bullets smashed into the area. Despite the Russian occupation, the plant is maintained by Ukrainian technicians. Only two of the six reactors are currently running at full power. (Reuters/AFP)

According to a report by “Welt”, the federal government has been blocking requests from Ukraine for further arms deliveries for months. These have been brought up repeatedly by Ukrainian diplomats in the Federal Ministry of Defense over the past ten weeks, it said on Friday. There, as well as in Olaf Scholz’s (SPD) chancellery, the inquiries were apparently put on hold.

According to the report, there have been high-level meetings in the Ministry of Defense several times a month since June, in which Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) also took part. The Ukrainian side has always asked for more deliveries of those types of weapons that Germany has already provided, namely the Panzerhaubitze 2000 and the Mars II multiple rocket launcher.

So far, Germany has delivered ten self-propelled howitzers and three of the rocket launchers. The Ukrainian side also pushed for approval of the export of battle tanks and armored personnel carriers requested by the industry. In April, Ukraine had already received offers from the armaments group Rheinmetall to buy 100 Marder infantry fighting vehicles and 88 Leopard 1 main battle tanks, including training and ammunition, for a total of 268 million euros. According to the manufacturer, the device would be “quickly available”, but there was no reaction from the Chancellery.

Last week, the Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Resnikov also raised the concerns in a personal phone call with Lambrecht, according to “Welt”. The head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Andriy Yermak, had previously done so in a telephone conversation with the foreign policy adviser to the chancellor, Jens Plötner. “Our requests were always taken down and written down,” according to Ukrainian government circles, “but that has had no effect so far.”

According to “Welt”, the Ministry of Defense said on request that the Ministry was “in contact with the Ukrainian side on many levels”. The aim is “the best possible support for Ukraine in its fight against the Russian aggressor”. However, no further details could be given. (AFP)