Zelenskiy accuses Russia of holding ‘hostages’ at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant


© Reuters. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi speaks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as they visit the Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Plant, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine March 27 2023. Ukrainians


By Dan Peleschuk

KYIV (Reuters) – The President of Ukraine said the Russian military is holding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant “hostage” and that its safety cannot be guaranteed until they leave it, while his forces are stationed. door to the frontline town of Avdiivka as they planned their next move.

The Russian military has occupied Europe’s largest nuclear power plant since the first weeks of the invasion of Ukraine and has no intention of relinquishing control.

“Holding a nuclear power plant hostage for more than a year – this is certainly the worst thing that has ever happened in the history of nuclear energy in Europe or around the world,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in the post. nightly video speech.

He criticized Russia’s presence as “radiation blackmail”.

His comments came after a meeting earlier in the day with Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The two met at the Dnipro hydroelectric power station – northeast of the Zaporizhzhia plant.

Zelenskiy said in comments posted on the president’s website that initiatives to restore safety and security would “certainly fail” without the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Russia. factory.

Russia and Ukraine regularly accuse each other of shelling the Zaporizhzhia factory. Fighting around it and worries about water shortages and possible power outages for cooling systems have raised fears of nuclear disaster.

Since September, an IAEA team has been stationed at the plant, which Kiev has accused Moscow of using as a shield for troops and military hardware.

Grossi has repeatedly called for a safe zone to be established around it and he will visit it again this week. He has tried to negotiate with both sides but said in January that brokering a deal was becoming more difficult.

Zaporizhzhia is one of four regions Russia announced in September after referendums were widely criticized as fake. Russia considers the plant as its territory, which Ukraine denies.

Zelenskiy visited the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia on Monday, the latest phase of a tour of the front lines since a top general said a Ukrainian counter-offensive could happen soon.


Analysts expect a Ukrainian counter-offensive to be launched in earnest from April to May when the weather improves and more military aid arrives, including Leopard and Challenger battle tanks. .

The German Defense Ministry said on Monday that 18 Leopard 2 tanks, horses of troops from across Europe, pledged by Germany had arrived in Ukraine.

“I’m sure they can make a decisive contribution on the front,” German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius wrote on Twitter.

The front lines in Ukraine have barely moved for more than four months despite a Russian winter offensive. The Ukrainian military aims to wear out Russian forces before launching its own offensive.

Russia’s Wagner mercenary force, which fights alongside Russian forces in eastern Ukraine and is believed to have suffered heavy losses, is looking to replenish its forces ahead of any Ukrainian counterattack.

A huge recruitment ad for the group has appeared on the facade of an office building in northeastern Moscow.

It displays Wagner’s logo and slogans like “Join the winning team!” and “Together We Will Win,” along with an image of a masked man holding a weapon.


On the battlefield, Russian forces appear to be concentrating on Avdiivka, 90 kilometers (55 miles) south of the devastated mining town of Bakhmut, while a Ukrainian general said forces are making plans for their next move.

Ukraine closed Avdiivka to civilians on Monday, with one official describing the town as a “post-apocalyptic wasteland”.

The Ukrainian military has warned that Avdiivka could become a “second Bakhmut”, which has been reduced to rubble after months of fighting that both sides call a “meat grinder”. Russian forces say they are fighting street by street.

The commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, General Oleksandr Syrskyi, who said this month that a counterattack was not “far away”, visited frontline troops in the east and said his forces remained are repelling attacks on Bakhmut.

Reuters could not verify the battlefield reports.

Ever since Putin’s invasion to “demilitarize” Ukraine got bogged down in the fall, he and other Russian officials have raised the prospect of a potentially escalating war involving nuclear weapons. On Saturday, he said an agreement had been reached to place tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

Ukraine and its Western allies condemned the plan.

Ukraine has called for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council and Lithuania has said it will call for new sanctions on Moscow and Minsk. EU policy chief Josep Borrell urged Belarus not to stockpile weapons and threatened further sanctions.


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