KYIV, Ukraine –
Russian forces have blindfolded and arrested the head of Europe’s largest nuclear plant, Ukraine’s nuclear energy supplier said on Saturday, sparking long-simmering concerns about security. of the factory.
Friday’s alleged kidnapping appeared to come shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin escalated the war in Ukraine and pushed the country into a dangerous new phase by annexing four Ukrainian regions that Moscow controls. wholly or in part and intensifying the threat of nuclear force.
Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom said that in a possible attempt to ensure Moscow’s hold on the newly annexed territory, Russian forces arrested the Director General of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Ihor Murashov, around 4 p.m. Friday.
On Friday, Putin signed treaties to take over Ukraine’s Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, including the area around the nuclear plant.
Energoatom said the Russian military stopped Murashov’s car, blindfolded him and then took him to an undisclosed location.
“His detention by (Russia) jeopardizes the safety of Ukraine and Europe’s largest nuclear power plant,” said Energoatom President Petro Kotin. Ask the director to be released immediately.
Russia did not immediately acknowledge the arrest of the plant director.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Saturday that Russia told it “the director-general of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been detained to answer questions.” The Vienna-based IAEA did not immediately elaborate.
The power plant has repeatedly been caught in the crossfire of the war in Ukraine. Ukrainian technicians continued to operate the generating station after the Russian army seized it. Its last reactor was shut down in September as a precaution because of repeated shelling of damaged power lines nearby to the plant.
The plant is a strategic feat for Russia and has caused worldwide concern as the only nuclear plant embroiled in modern warfare. Active combat nearby means it is unlikely to start generating electricity again anytime soon even if Russia installs its own management system.
It was like a town unto itself, with about 11,000 pre-war workers. While many fled in the midst of the fighting, others stayed behind to ensure the safety of the radioactive material and its structures.
An Energoatom spokesman told the Associated Press on Saturday that employees of the Zaporizhzhia power plant are being forced to apply to report to Rosatom, the Russian nuclear giant that operates nuclear plants. Russian person.
Murashov objected to the handover of the Zaporizhzhia tree to Rosatom, but an Energoatom spokesman could not confirm that this was the reason for his abduction.
Murashov has access to security codes, coordinates all work at the plant, ensures protocols are followed and reports to Kyiv, according to an Energoatom spokesperson. The Ukrainian authorities appointed him to run the factory a few days before Russian troops invaded Ukraine.
However, Energoatom said it has not lost its connection to the plant and that all important parameters of its work are still being reported to Kyiv.