Putin Warns of ‘Catastrophe’ at Ukraine Nuclear Site

August 20th, 2022 - by Connor Freeman / AntiWar.com

Putin asks IAEA to visit the nuclear plant “as soon as possible”

Putin Warns Macron of
‘Large-Scale Catastrophe’ at Zaporizhzhia Site

Connor Freeman / AntiWar.com

(August 19, 2022) — While tensions rise and shelling continues at southeastern Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) and nearby areas, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the need for the UN nuclear watchdog to send a mission to visit the plant.

Both Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of planning provocations and false flags at the plant while warnings of a possible nuclear catastrophe at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant are growing.

After the call between Putin and Macron, their first in three months, the Kremlin issued a statement reiterating the Russian offer to provide security for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission. The statement said that Moscow “confirmed its readiness to provide the [IAEA] inspectors with the necessary assistance.”

During the call, Putin also emphasized Ukraine’s shelling at the plant could cause a “large-scale catastrophe” and that the inspectors should visit the ZNPP “as soon as possible.” The French readout of the call said Putin and Macron “will speak about this subject again in the next few days following discussions between the technical teams and before the deployment of the mission.”

While Ukraine asserts that Russian forces are attacking the ZNPP, Moscow has controlled the plant and surrounding areas since March, giving them little reason to risk a major nuclear incident that would imperil the ethnic Russians they are protecting in the Zaporizhzhia oblast.

Though Russia controls the plant, it is still run by Ukrainian operators. Moreover, Russia has been increasingly sounding the alarm, calling for independent inspectors to see evidence they say will prove who is responsible for attacks at the site. For weeks, the area has seen frequent shelling. A Russian backed official in the oblast has accused Kiev of attacking the power plant repeatedly with US-provided M777 howitzers. On Friday, Russia submitted a letter to the UN Security Council warning of Kiev’s planned “provocations” at the ZNPP.

Ukraine’s Energoatom state nuclear company claims Moscow plans to switch off the functioning power blocks at the plant, cut it off from Ukraine’s power grid, and reconnect it to the Russian power grid. The allegations are that Russia would deprive Ukraine of this major power source. Petro Kotin, the head of Energoatom, told Reutersthat decoupling and reconnecting the plant is a “technically difficult process.”

He also said the Russian military is looking for diesel to keep the nuclear fuel cooling systems working once the external power supply is cut. While there are back up diesel generators at the site, it remains unclear if the supplies are sufficient.

Igor Kirillov, a Russian Defense Ministry official, said the ZNPP’s back-up support systems had been damaged as a result of attacks and might have to be shut down.

The Reuters report adds, “If cooling systems failed, the nuclear reaction would slow but a reactor would heat up very swiftly. At such high temperatures, hydrogen could be released from the zirconium cladding and the reactor could start to melt down.”

Critical Powerlines Hit in Earlier Strike
Kiev claims Russian shelling earlier this month damaged three power lines connecting the plant to Ukraine’s power grid, though Russia said the Ukrainians were behind the shelling.

Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev said Washington is encouraging Kiev to attack the plant. He says if there is a “technological disaster, its consequences will be felt in every corner of the world,” adding “Washington, London and their accomplices will bear full responsibility for that.”

For its part, Moscow defended its military presence at the plant. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the troops there ensure the prevention of a “Chernobyl scenario.”

On Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared Russia is using “the ground around the nuclear power plant as a staging area, as a platform, to launch artillery attacks on Ukrainian forces,” but Moscow denies this claim.

The Russian Defense Ministry said “Russian troops have no heavy weapons either on the territory of the station or in areas around it. There are only guard units,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the troops there ensure the prevention of a “Chernobyl scenario.”

There are Russian claims that Washington and Kiev plan to trigger an accident at the ZNPP, citing a threat of the core overheating. Moscow’s Defense Ministry also said Kiev’s forces were being deployed in the area to hit the plant with artillery strikes from the city of Nikopol, adding “blame for the consequences (of the strikes) will be placed on the Russian armed forces.”

“False Flag” Warnings from Both Sides
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry says the Russians are planning a “large-scale terrorist attack” at the ZNPP and plan to pin it on Kiev. State Department spokesman Ned Price says false flag operations would be right out of the “Russian playbook.”

Even before the war began, Price and other US officials notoriously accused the Russians of planning false flags in Ukraine without providing evidence. Likewise the Pentagon is squarely blaming Russia for the ordeal. A senior defense official told reporters “we see Russia’s current actions in and around this plant as really the height of irresponsibility.”

Some residents in the area have begun to flee to neighboring European countries, though only women and children are being permitted to leave. Kiev bans men aged 18-60 from leaving the country so that they may be conscripted to keep the war going.

While Russia has rejected UN proposals for the plant be demilitarized, Bruce K. Gagnon, coordinator for the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, recently sent a letter to Guterres condemning Kiev for the dire situation.

In part, the letter reads “I have been following this dangerous situation for many weeks. It is abundantly obvious to me that the US-installed Kiev government is doing the shelling of the nuclear plant. Why would Russia want to contaminate the very region of Russian-ethnic citizens it is attempting to save from this out-of-control Kiev regime?

The fact that the Ukrainian plant personnel remain on their posts, and that Russia is trying to protect the plant from a disaster, indicates its good intentions in this matter. I urge your offices to get the IAEA to the plant ASAP and you must publicly pin the blame for the shelling on the appropriate source – the Kiev regime that is clearly taking their marching orders from Washington.”

Connor Freeman is the assistant editor and a writer at the Libertarian Institute, primarily covering foreign policy. He is a co-host on the Conflicts of Interest podcast. His writing has been featured in media outlets such as Antiwar.com, Counterpunch, and the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. He has also appeared on Liberty Weekly, Around the Empire, and Parallax Views. You can follow him on Twitter @FreemansMind96.

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