Putin may be preparing to blow up a nuclear power plant in Ukraine

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

As victory eludes Putin’s grasp, forces under his command resort to increasingly brutal unconventional tactics in pursuit of victory. The most recent turning point has been the use of local infrastructure as a weapon; attack hospitals, schools and electrical infrastructure in the vain hope that this will lead to capitulation.

I saw these tactics up close in Syria, where General “Armageddon” Surovikin – now defunct after Wagner’s failed coup – developed them. In Syria, as in Ukraine, Russia’s conventional military strength has been lacking. But there, the use of unconventional violence ended up winning. If history is any guide, Putin may be about to embark on an unthinkable escalation in Ukraine.

The most important thing to understand is that the Russian military is monstrous. Its leaders are aloof and arrogant, out of touch with what’s happening at the front, while junior officers are too scared to push bad news up the chain. The brutality of the Russian command – where the commandos wait in the rear to shoot anyone who steps back – is proof of their utter lack of scruples. They will do anything to try to achieve victory, or at least avoid defeat.

Last year, that took the form of an attempt to tear down Ukraine’s power grid, turning off lights and heating during the cold, dark winter months. When that failed, the next escalation appears to have blown the Kakhovka Dam. Ukrainian intelligence had discussed this possibility for weeks before; the country now finds itself with an environmental disaster possibly worse than the Chernobyl disaster. It made many people homeless, left a million more without drinking water and contaminated large swaths of farmland.

Now that that has failed, the next step could be the detonation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as an improvised nuclear weapon. In Syria, when all else failed, the Russians allowed President Assad to use chemical weapons to subjugate the civilian population. A nuclear “accident” would be consistent with this deranged doctrine.

Ukrainian intelligence services have warned for some time that Russian forces occupying the nuclear power plant have mined the power plant and wired the reactors with explosives. At the same time, Russian authorities claimed that Ukraine would create a nuclear disaster by firing artillery shells at the plant. It is a transparent exercise in preparing the ground. If the Russians blow up the plant, it will likely spread radioactive contamination over a wide area. It may well be heading west through Ukraine and Western Europe.

The possibility of an “accident” is obvious. It has been reported that Russian forces will withdraw from the factory tomorrow; the opportunity to avoid one on the ground may have passed. The West must make Putin understand that if he goes all the way, he will lose the war. Arms deliveries to Ukraine will be stepped up, again and again, until not a single Russian tank remains intact – and it is, in turn, overthrown by its own internal enemies.

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