Ukraine claims Russia is plotting ‘provocation’ at nuclear plant, offers no evidence

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s military intelligence service has claimed, without providing evidence, that Russia was plotting a “large-scale provocation” at a nuclear power plant it occupies in the southeast of the country with the aim of to disrupt an impending Ukrainian counter-offensive.

A statement issued Friday by the Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry claimed that Russian forces would strike the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, and then report a radioactive leak in order to trigger an international investigation that would put hostilities paused and would give the Russians impose the respite they need to regroup before the counteroffensive.

To make that happen, Russia “disrupted the staff rotation of the permanent monitoring mission” of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency that was scheduled for Saturday, the statement said. He provided no evidence to support any of the claims.

The IAEA said in an email response to the AP that it had no immediate comment on the allegations, and Russian officials did not immediately comment on the Ukrainian allegations.

The White House said it was monitoring the situation closely and had seen no indication of leaking radioactive materials.

This assertion mirrors similar statements Moscow regularly makes, alleging without evidence that kyiv is plotting provocations involving various weapons or dangerous substances in order to then accuse Russia of war crimes.

It comes as Moscow’s army in Ukraine prepares for an imminent counter-offensive by Kyiv forces, which has yet to begin but could begin “tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or within a week”, the secretary said. of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, told the BBC in an interview on Saturday.

Zaporizhzhia power plant is one of the 10 largest nuclear power plants in the world. It is located in the partially occupied region of Zaporizhzhia in southeastern Ukraine. The plant’s six reactors have been shut down for months, but it still needs electricity and trained personnel to operate crucial cooling systems and other safety features.

Nearby fighting has repeatedly interrupted power supplies and fueled fears of a potential disaster like that of Chernobyl in northern Ukraine, where a reactor exploded in 1986 and spewed deadly radiation, contaminating a large area in the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

In other developments:

– Ukraine’s national police say a 60-year-old man was killed by Russian shelling on Saturday night in the town of Kupyansk in the Kharkiv region, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the Russian border.

– Russia reported new attacks on its territory on Saturday, with drones crashing in its western regions and areas on the border with Ukraine coming under shelling.

Two drones attacked an administrative building of an oil company in Russia’s western Pskov region, which borders Belarus, Latvia and Estonia, Pskov Governor Mikhail Vedernikov reported on Saturday. The building was damaged following an explosion, Vedernikov said.

Another drone crashed in the Tver region about 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of Moscow, local authorities said.

The Russian region of Belgorod, on the border with Ukraine, suffered several bombardments on Saturday, killing one person, according to its governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov. In the neighboring Kursk region, which also borders Ukraine, one person was killed by cross-border mortar fire, its governor Roman Starovoit said.

– The British military said on Saturday that Russia’s private military force, Wagner, was withdrawing from areas around the eastern town of Bakhmut which Moscow claims to have captured earlier this month.

Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, earlier this week announced the withdrawal, saying Wagner would hand over control of the ruined city to the Russian military. Some were skeptical, however: Prigozhin is known for his unverifiable and headline-grabbing statements which he later revisits.

But Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in a series of tweets on Saturday that Wagner’s fighters “probably have started to withdraw from some of their positions” around Bakhmut. “The Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister also corroborated Wagner’s rotation of forces in the outskirts of the city,” the ministry said.


Darlene Superville in Washington DC contributed to this story.


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