Following calls from the international community for Russian troops to leave the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant facility in Ukraine, Russian officials this week insisted that a military presence is required to “protect” the plant. It comes after multiple strikes have been launched at the nuclear plant, which Russia and Ukraine have both refused to claim responsibility for, and after international experts warned that further strikes could cause a Europe-wide catastrophe.
Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, told Interfax on Friday that Russian troops would not be leaving the facility and are required to ensure that the plant is not “vulnerable” to “provocations and terrorist attacks.”
Russian officials have repeatedly insisted that Ukraine is shelling the plant, not Russian troops.
Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said on Telegram on Friday that Ukrainian troops are responsible for the attacks.
“They say it’s Russia,” he said. “That’s obviously 100% nonsense, even for the stupid Russophobic public.”
It would make sense, but it also wouldn’t be the first time that Russia hasn’t been honest about the dynamics of the Ukraine invasion – starting with the fact that the Kremlin still refuses to call the “special military operation” an invasion.
Russia Using Plant As A “Shield”
After Russian troops took control of the plant in March of this year, reports quickly emerged that described troops operating heavy military machinery and vehicles within the plant’s grounds. It sparked concerns and international criticism over the Russian military presence, and as the months went by, the plant also became the target of military strikes.
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia on Monday of using the plant as a “nuclear shield” to prevent Ukrainian troops from destroying military equipment and ammunition. Blinken said that the White House is “deeply concerned” about Russia’s use of the nuclear facility as a military base.
“Of course the Ukrainians cannot fire back lest there be a terrible accident involving the nuclear plant,” he said.
Workers “Kept At Gunpoint”
Ukrainian staff still working at the nuclear power plant told the BBC how Russian troops keep them at gunpoint to ensure that they continue operating the plant. Two workers spoke to British state media, describing the daily threats of kidnap made by the occupying troops as well as their fear of a nuclear disaster or the “radioactive contamination of a wider region.”
“My working day is a constant stress,” one worker told the BBC, adding that she and her fellow workers were only able to communicate using Russian sim cards in their cell phones.
“I can’t work like I used to. The last week I haven’t even been able to come to my work place,” the worker continued. “On Saturday, there was shelling of the nitrogen-oxygen station, which caused a fire. By some miracle, the people working there survived.”
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.