THE UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi says intensified fighting around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine render the situation “unpredictable and potentially dangerous.”
Ukrainian and Russian forces have been shelling each other’s positions near the plant, which lies in Russian-controlled territory in Zaporizhzhia oblast, one of four Ukrainian regions Russia has officially annexed, though it remains contested on the battlefield.
“I’m extremely concerned about the very real nuclear safety and security risks facing the plant,” International Atomic Energy Agency director Mr Grossi warned at the weekend, following an order on Friday from the Russian-appointed regional Governor Yevgeny Balitsky that civilians should be evacuated from 18 settlements suffering heavy Ukrainian shelling.
One of them—Enerhodar—is next to the power plant, Europe’s largest, and is the place of residence of most of its workers, though these have not been pulled out.
Zaporizhzhia has been cited as a potential route for a much-mooted Ukrainian counter-offensive this spring—although Ukraine’s repeated pleas that it is running out of ammunition and leaked classified US intelligence documents suggest its military could struggle to reclaim occupied territory.
In Bakhmut in Donetsk, where a bloody battle has been raging for nine months, Russian media reported that Chechen troops controlled by Ramzan Kadyrov will be moving in to replace the mercenary Wagner Group, whose leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has repeatedly complained of being starved of ammunition and supplies, from Wednesday.
And a Russian novelist supportive of the war, Zakhar Prilepin, was reported to be out of a coma today following a bomb attack on his car that killed his driver on Saturday. Russian investigators say they suspect Ukraine of involvement in the car bombing.