Russia has suspended operations at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant and evacuated civilians amid the threat of “provocation” by Ukrainian forces. The governor of the Russia-controlled part of the surrounding region, Yevgeny Balitsky, cited concerns over Ukraine’s anticipated counteroffensive to reclaim Russian-held territory, including areas in the Zaporizhzhia region.
This could allegedly lead to a “nuclear incident.”
Russian authorities have reportedly already initiated evacuations. Rafael Grossi, head of the United Nations nuclear power watchdog, on Saturday, expressed concerns about the plant’s safety, describing the situation as “potentially dangerous.”
“The general situation in the area near the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant is becoming increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous,” said The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief, adding that he’s concerned. “I’m extremely concerned about the very real nuclear safety and security risks facing the plant,” he was quoted saying according to WOIN News.
According to Reuters, approximately 3,000 people, including around 1,000 minors, have been evacuated from villages close to the front line.
Balitsky, the Moscow-installed governor, noted a rise in water levels in the nearby Kakhovka Reservoir, which he believes to be a manipulation. He did not provide further details on the matter. “We’ve seen the level (of water in the nearby Kakhovka Reservoir) rise to 17.08 (meters). We realize that this is manipulation. The nuclear reactors have been suspended,” he said as per TASS.
Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of Melitopol in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, said that the evacuation directive has resulted in “a mad panic and no less mad queues” at the checkpoint leading to Russian-annexed Crimea. With buses making frequent trips transporting individuals out fuel stations have reportedly been “drained” of gasoline. That could present a different problem in and of itself. Especially if the conditions continue to worsen and more evacuations are needed.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), led by Grossi, has previously issued warnings about the plant’s safety following temporary power cuts caused by shelling. In March, the IAEA cautioned that the facility was relying on diesel generators to maintain crucial cooling systems due to damage to power lines.