Russia has said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant will from now on operate under the supervision of Russian agencies. It comes as Zaporizhzhia, a city on the Dnieper River in southeastern Ukraine, along with three more Ukrainian regions representing more than 15 percent of the country, was annexed following referendums deemed illegal and coercive and in a process Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called “land grab”.
Russia captured the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in early March shortly after invading Ukraine, but Ukrainian staff continued to operate it. Both Moscow and Kyiv have since accused each other of shelling the facility, risking a nuclear disaster.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin said: “The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is now on the territory of the Russian Federation and, accordingly, should be operated under the supervision of our relevant agencies.”
It is not clear how Russia planned to operate the plant and if it would try and introduce its own staff to the complex.
On Saturday, October 1, a Russian patrol detained the director general of the power plant, Ihor Murashov, who was later set free after the intervention of IAEA.
The Times newspaper reported on Monday that the NATO military alliance had warned members that President Vladimir Putin was set to demonstrate his willingness to use nuclear weapons by carrying out a nuclear test on Ukraine’s border.
It was also reported that Russia had moved a train thought to be linked to a unit of the defence ministry that was responsible for nuclear munitions. However, a NATO official said on Tuesday that no changes in Russia’s nuclear posture have been observed.
Kyiv and its Western allies say Russia’s attempted annexation is an illegal land grab and will never be recognised with Ukraine saying its army will recapture any territory occupied by Russian forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday night that his military had made major, rapid advances against Russian forces in the past week, taking back dozens of towns in regions in the south and east that Russia has declared annexed.
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He said: “This week alone, since the Russian pseudo-referendum, dozens of population centres have been liberated.
“These are in Kherson, Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk regions altogether.”
Meanwhile, UK Foreign minister James Cleverly said on Wednesday Britain was listening carefully to nuclear threats made by Putin but the Russian President had a long history of “sabre-rattling”.
Asked whether Russian nuclear threats had to be taken seriously, Mr Cleverly told BBC radio: “We always listen carefully … to what Vladimir Putin is saying. We also recognise of course that he has a long history of sabre-rattling.”