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Video: Russian forces overtake largest nuclear power plant in Europe; world fears radioactive disaster

Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant attacked by Russian forces Mar. 3-4, 2022. (Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant/Released)
March 04, 2022

Russia’s invading forces in southern Ukraine attacked and overtook the largest nuclear power plant in Europe – located in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine – early Friday morning. The move marks the first time an invading force has targeted and taken control of a power plant, and the world is condemning the act over concerns of a radioactive disaster.

Overnight, Russia advanced on the site with shelling attacks and set the nuclear plant on fire. An unidentified Russian projectile struck part of the plant that International Atomic Energy Agency’s director-general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, later identified as a training center. Grossi added that only one of the plant’s six reactors is currently operating, and at about 60 percent capacity.

“Firing shells in the area of a nuclear power plant violates the fundamental principle that the physical integrity of nuclear facilities must be maintained and kept safe at all time,” Grossi said.

Ukraine’s State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate confirmed Russia’s occupation of the site in a statement. “Currently, the site of the Zaporizhzhia NPP is occupied by the military forces of the Russian Federation,” the agency said.

Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear power operator, said the plant’s staff has continued work to ensure operation of the site remains stable, but are doing so at gunpoint by the Russian invaders. “Unfortunately, there are dead and wounded among the Ukrainian defenders of the station,” Energoatom added.

Fires at the site were later extinguished and radiation levels haven’t risen, according to officials monitoring the site. The attack prompted concerns from world leaders of a nuclear disaster similar to Chernobyl in 1986 – the worst nuclear accident in history.

Energoatom head Petro Kotin warned that if the shelling strikes the nuclear facilities, it would “lead to nuclear disaster.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Russia’s attack intentional and an act of “nuclear terrorism.”

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv said Friday morning, “It is a war crime to attack a nuclear power plant. Putin’s shelling of Europe’s largest nuclear plant takes his reign of terror one step further.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned Russia’s attack on Friday, saying, “This just demonstrates the recklessness of this war and the importance of ending it, and the importance of Russia withdrawing all its troops.”

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed Russia’s shelling was in response to a Ukrainian “sabotage group” inside the site who allegedly fired at Russian forces and set fire to the site before escaping. The claim has been received as another attempt by Russia to deflect blame and manufacture crises.

Ukraine Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Friday, “Russian FM Lavrov spreads disinfo by falsely alleging Ukraine wants to restore its nuclear arsenal. Once again: This is a cynical, blatant lie by Russia who itself fires at nuclear facilities in Ukraine. Safe zones must be established around them to prevent disaster in Europe.”

The United Nations Security Council was slated to hold an emergency meeting on Friday morning to discuss the attack.