Zaporozhye: Evacuations from the Russian-occupied region of Ukraine raise concerns about the safety of nuclear power plants



Russia’s evacuation of residents from Ukraine’s Zaporozhye region has prompted UN nuclear watchdog concerns about the safety of the power plant, prompting Ukraine to accuse Russian soldiers of disguising themselves as civilians.

More than 1,550 people have been evacuated from Russian-occupied front-line towns in Zaporozhye and moved “deep into the region,” Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Russian-appointed military-civilian administration, said.

Russia controls much of Zaporozhye, and the evacuations have been prompted by rumors of a suspected counterattack by Ukraine, with the southern region likely to be a prime target as Kiev tries to fend off an invasion by Moscow.

But the evacuation of the settlement near the Zaporozhye NPP raised concerns about the facility’s stability. The largest nuclear power plant in Europe is owned by Russian forces, but is operated by a predominantly Ukrainian workforce.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Saturday that the situation in the area near the plant was becoming “unpredictable and potentially dangerous”.

The city of Enerhodar was among 18 settlements whose residents were evacuated over the weekend. Most of the plant’s employees live in the city, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement.

Grossi said he was deeply concerned about the “tense, stressful and difficult situation for employees and their families at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant” and the “real safety and security risks facing the plant”.

“We must act now to avoid the threat of a major nuclear accident and its consequences for people and the environment,” Grossi warned.

Site manager Yuriy Chernychuk said operations personnel had not been evacuated and were “doing everything necessary to ensure the nuclear safety and security of the station.”

Chernychuk said all six reactors at the plant were in shutdown mode and that its equipment was operating “in compliance with all required nuclear safety and security regulations,” Grossi said.

The location of the plant on the front line on the east bank of the Dnieper River, according to local reports, shelling of the surrounding and nearby towns is common.

Due to Russia’s intensive bombing of the region, it has been frequently cut off from Ukraine’s electricity grid and has repeatedly raised fears of a nuclear disaster throughout Europe.

The plant is also important because Ukraine is heavily dependent on nuclear energy. If Russia keeps it, Ukraine will lose 20 percent of its national electricity. Analysts say Russia wants to keep the plant in good shape, hoping to serve its electricity market.

The IAEA said that experts at the site heard the explosion regularly, including on Friday.

The evacuations, which began in Zaporozhye on Friday, were a “necessary measure” due to “intensification of shelling of settlements” near the front, said Yevgeny Balitsky, the Russian-appointed acting governor of the semi-occupied region.

Local Telegram channels reported seeing evacuation buses and authorities urged residents to pack their bags and get their children out of kindergartens.

Evacuated residents were placed in temporary shelters, including children of primary school age, said Balitsky. According to him, the evacuees “have everything they need: food, shelter, constant communication and consultation with specialists.”

Ukrainian authorities have accused Russian forces of using the evacuation as a means of forcing Ukrainians out.

Natalya Gumenyuk, spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Southern Operations Command, told local media that the evacuations were “an imitation of care for the local population.”

According to him, this was a custom used by the Russians in the past.

“They are trying to evacuate people to places where they have set up their own defense lines and where they have set up their units to use local civilians as hideouts,” Humenyuk said.

His statement came as the exiled Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, claimed that Russian soldiers were trying to leave Zaporozhye disguised as civilians.

“There are soldiers who tried to escape from the temporarily occupied territories,” Fedorov said in an interview with Ukrainian media on Sunday.

“Our residents report cases of Russian soldiers dressing as civilians. One of the goals of their action is to escape from the temporarily occupied territory.

However, Fedorov also said that Russian troops “moved towards the Zaporizhia front.”

Meanwhile, Ukrainian military officials said Sunday that Russian forces were continuing to shell the area, but that there had been no casualties in the past 24 hours.

On Sunday, a spokesman for the command in southern Ukraine said that Russian forces were trying to wear down Ukraine’s air defense system.

“They try to find a way around it. And they’re expanding their tactics because they don’t have a steady supply of tools to work with,” Khumeniuk said, adding that the Russians are also “trying to test and find out where the defense systems are. Air “.

On Monday morning, an explosion was heard in the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, and at least five people were injured, Ukrainian authorities said.

And in the east of Ukraine, the leader of the “Wagner” mercenary group announced that his troops had advanced to the besieged city of Bakhmut.

Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said Sunday that his forces were advancing “in different directions so far” while the Ukrainians controlled 2.37 square kilometers of territory.

Prigozhin said his forces would remain in Bakhmut after the Russian Ministry of Defense promised to supply them with more ammunition.

Bakhmut was the scene of a month-long offensive by Russian troops that drove thousands from their homes and devastated the region.

But despite the large manpower and resources that Russia devoted to the capture of Bakhmut, Moscow’s army suffered heavy casualties and was unable to gain full control of the city.

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