Ukrainian intelligence yesterday claimed Russia was plotting a “false flag” attack on Europe’s largest nuclear power station as Volodymyr Zelensky urged the leaders of the UN and Turkey to intervene and secure its safety.
“Russia must withdraw its troops from the plant immediately,” the Ukrainian president said after holding talks with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, and Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general.
Ukraine’s defence intelligence agency said staff from Russia’s Rosatom nuclear company had been told to stay home from work today as the Zaporizhzhia facility would be closed to everyone except for Ukrainian operational staff.
We are worried. We don’t want another Chernobyl
The “occupiers” planned to stage a “terrorist attack [to] raise the stakes”, the agency said.
Video footage also emerged that appeared to show a large number of military trucks inside the plant, despite Moscow’s denials it was using Zaporizhzhia as a “shield” for its army equipment including ammunition. At least five military trucks can be seen in the footage parked around 100 metres from one of the plant’s turbogenerators.
“We are worried. We don’t want another Chernobyl”, Mr Erdogan said after meeting with Mr Zelensky and Mr Guterres in Lviv.
Mr Guterres called for the demilitarisation of the nuclear plant and said: “While continuing our efforts to find a solution [to the conflict], we remain on the side of our Ukraine friends.
“We must tell it like it is – any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia is suicide.”
Mr Zelensky accused Vladimir Putin of “nuclear blackmail” and told Mr Guterres Russia’s weaponising of the plant was one of the greatest dangers in the war in Ukraine.
He said the men had agreed on the possible parameters of a visit to the plant by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, but it is not clear if Russia will agree to the plan.
We are ready to play the role of facilitator towards reviving the negotiations
Mr Erdogan, who was visiting Ukraine for the first time since the invasion began, has carved out a mediation role that led to the UN-supervised lifting of Russian blockades allowing Ukraine to export 22 million tons of corn and grain stuck in Black Sea ports. The war and the blocked exports significantly exacerbated the global food crisis because Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers.
In a sign of Ankara’s willingness to host further talks, Mr Erdogan said, “We are ready to play the role of facilitator or mediator towards reviving the negotiations.”
Turkey agreed to help rebuild Ukraine’s infrastructure, including roads and bridges, and Mr Zelensky asked Mr Guterres to seek UN access to Ukrainian citizens deported to Russia. He also requested UN help in freeing captured Ukrainian soldiers and medics.
Ukrainian intelligence issued their warning hours after the Kremlin claimed Kyiv would stage a “provocation” at the Russian-occupied station in southern Ukraine and blame the “accident” on Moscow.
Zaporizhzhia was captured by Russian forces soon after tens of thousands of troops invaded Ukraine.
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