Russian forces have seized control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant near the city of Enerhodar, Ukraine, after risking a nuclear disaster greater than Chernobyl by shelling the site.
“The Zaporizhzhia NPP site has been seized by the military forces of the Russian Federation,” the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine reported, further noting that the fire at the facility was now extinguished.
“Russian forces are controlling the administrative building and passage into the plant,” the agency said in a statement, according to NPR. “Our employees are still inside, ensuring the stable operation of nuclear facilities. Radiation levels are normal.”
While Vladimir Putin’s invading army remains largely stalled in northern Ukraine, facing resistance around the capital city of Kyiv, the Russian president is realizing more success in the southern part of the country, which is where the nuclear plant is located, as Russia is close to controlling all Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea and establishing a land bridge from Crimea to eastern Ukraine.
The nuclear power plant is one of the largest in Europe and came under fire Thursday, with reports of fires being seen at the facility.
“A spokesman for Europe’s largest nuclear plant says the facility is on fire after Russia attacked the power station in the southern Ukrainian city of Enerhodar,” the Associated Press reported. Citing a government official, the AP further noted that “elevated levels of radiation are being detected near the site of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which provides about 25% of the country’s power generation.”
In a Facebook post, Dmytro Orlov, the mayor of the nearby town of Enerhodar wrote, “A threat to world security as a result of relentless shelling by the enemy of the buildings and blocks of largest nuclear power plant in Europe. The nuclear power plant is on fire.”
Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba warned: “If it blows up, it will be 10 times larger than Chernobyl.”
Various reports stated that Russian forces maintained the attack, preventing Ukrainian firefighters from battling the fires.
“Russians must immediately cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone,” Kuleba said.
BREAKING – Ukraine’s FM confirms Zaporizhzhia fire:
“If it blows up, it will be 10 times larger than Chornobyl! Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!” – Kuleba says
— Phil Stewart (@phildstewart) March 4, 2022
U.N.’s atomic watchdog said there had been no release of radioactive material at the plant, NPR reported. The plant has six nuclear reactors but according to various reports, only one was operational. The other five were either disconnected or being cooled.
Rafael Mariano Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said a structure at the plant that was separate from the reactor was hit by a Russian “projectile” and that two people were injured. There were also uncollaborated reports of some deaths.
“We are fortunate that there was no release of radiation and that the integrity of the reactors themselves was not compromised,” he said, after being in contact with Ukraine’s nuclear regulator and managers at the Zaporizhzhia.
The nuclear plant provides a quarter of Ukraine’s electricity and controlling it allows Putin to further compromise Ukraine’s critical infrastructure as he lays seize to key Ukrainian cities in the southern part of the country.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Putin of unleashing “nuclear terror” in a video message shared before Russia took control of the plant.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on Europe to prevent a 'nuclear catastrophe' after a fire broke out at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant following a Russian attack https://t.co/UHPUHRcHY6 pic.twitter.com/aScHYzYTnX
— Reuters (@Reuters) March 4, 2022
“You know the word Chernobyl. No country other than Russia has ever fired on nuclear power units.” he said. “This is the first time in our history. In the history of mankind.”
“The terrorist state now resorted to nuclear terror,” Zelensky added. “Europe needs to wake up. The biggest nuclear power plant in Europe is on fire right now. Russian tanks are shooting at the nuclear blocks. These are tanks equipped with thermal imagers, so they know what they are aiming at.”
China, which has largely supported Putin’s aggression, said it is “seriously concerned about the safety and security” of nuclear facilities in Ukraine following the attack, NPR reported.
Retired Gen. Jack Keane, now a Fox News strategic analyst, described the attack as “insanity,” warning that Putin will stop at nothing to take over Ukraine.
“It’s absolute insanity when it comes down to it. I mean, their intent, likely, is they want to take these nuclear power plants so they can shut the power off in the major cities and the rural areas,” he said during an appearance on Jesse Watters Primetime. “There are 15 nuclear power plants in Ukraine at four different sites. But to conduct combat operations in and around nuclear power plants with the obvious safety issues that could take place would not only hurt and harm the Ukrainian people, but it would hurt and harm the Russians. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Keane said Russia is now calling up reinforcements and will not stop until he controls the country.
“We’ve got to understand, Putin will pull out all the stops, I mean, all the stops to take this down,” he said. “He is not going to tolerate the Ukrainians preventing him from occupying these major cities. He will use whatever resources he has to accomplish that so, look for and see if there is going to be a much larger reserve call-up or even general mobilization.”
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