The war in Ukraine, as depicted on social media: In video footage and images shared on Telegram this week, Ukrainian soldiers demonstrate how they struck Russian positions in Enerhodar using Warmate loitering munitions. The strikes are unnervingly close to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which the Russians took control of in March.
The power plant remains in operation by Ukrainian staff members, but the Russian military remains in control of the site. Russian forces are also reportedly using the site to store weapons and military equipment, knowing that strikes on the site of the nuclear power plant are unlikely to occur.
In a series of photographs, the remains of at least two Ukrainian Polish-made Warmate loitering munitions can be seen on the ground in Enerhodar. While the target was not specified, the munitions appear to have detonated correctly.
You can see those photographs in the Tweet below from popular English-language Ukrainian war tracking account, Ukraine Weapons Tracker.
A photograph shared by Ukrainian media on Telegram also shows what appears to be an administrative or military building in the region on fire, with large plumes of black smoke billowing out of the top of the building.
Additional video footage shared by the Ukrainian military, recorded by Ukrainian rotary blade UAVs, shows the loitering munition strikes on a Russian BM-21 Grad MLRS. Russian troops near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant can be seen fleeing in different directions as they realize the strikes are occurring.
In the same video, later into the clip, Russian forces can be seen attempting to put out a fire with water.
#Ukraine: At least two Ukrainian Polish-made WARMATE loitering munitions were used against Russian forces in Enerhodar, #Zaporizhzhia Oblast today. Both appeared to detonate properly, but the target is currently unknown. pic.twitter.com/CbcvAOWNdR
— ?? Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) July 20, 2022
Video from Ukraine’s GUR of Ukrainian Warmate loitering munition strikes on a Russian BM-21 Grad MLRS and concentration of troops near the Zaporizhzhia power plant. https://t.co/RoYKN4NOds pic.twitter.com/9gDvhDIeEb
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) July 22, 2022
Another video clip shared by Ukrainian media on Telegram, just 10 seconds long, shows black smoke rising in the distance, close to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
On Wednesday, Russia accused Ukraine of launching two drone strikes at the nuclear power station in the occupied region of Zaporizhzhia, but confirmed that the nuclear reactor had not been damaged in the attack.
“Ukrainian nationalist formations used two kamikaze drones to attack facilities at the Zaporozhzhia nuclear power plant – one drone was destroyed on approach to the plant,” the Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed in a statement.
Russian officials claimed that it was “only by sheer luck” that the strikes did not lead to any damage to the plant’s equipment, and that the strikes did not result in a “man-made disaster.”
The strikes by Ukrainian forces were likely coordinated to ensure that the nuclear reactor itself was not destroyed, and could have been an effort to warn Russian forces not to make the nuclear plant a target by storing weapons in the facility.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.