Every day the British Ministry of Defense publishes an intelligence report on the war in Ukraine.
Thursday’s report claims that the Russians have taken up defensive positions on the rooftops of six nuclear reactors at the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant.
– This is the first time that the actual reactor buildings have been incorporated into tactical defense plans, the British write.
The area where the power plant is located has been occupied by Russia since March 2022. The British claim that Russia took this step due to an imminent Ukrainian attack.
– This move is likely to increase the chances of damage to the safety systems of the power plant, if the fighting takes place around Zaporizhzhya.
– However, catastrophic damage to reactors is unlikely in most scenarios involving ground forces, because the buildings are highly reinforced.
A high value target
Throughout the war in Ukraine, there were fears of an accident at one of the country’s nuclear power plants. Two weeks ago, Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned of two land mines exploding near the nuclear power plant.
The four nuclear power plants in Ukraine are the most important targets of the war. No other war objective is more apt to strike fear and anxiety into the Ukrainian civilian population and the government in Kyiv. If these reactors were damaged and radioactive material was leaked, this would render areas in the region uninhabitable for a long time. This fear is well suited, from Russia’s perspective, to influence political and military decisions ahead of an expected Ukrainian attack, Tormod Heyer, a professor at the Norwegian Defense Academy, tells Nettavisen.
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Haier says that the nuclear power plant does not have great military strategic importance, but rather great political importance as a means of pressure.
– We are talking about the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. The Russian threat to destroy Zaporizhzhya allows Russian forces to hold the local population of the region hostage. There is nothing the military, the local population or the authorities fear more than the uncontrolled meltdown of all six reactors. By drawing these six nuclear reactors into the Russian defensive fray, the civilian population of the region is also drawn into it.
Uninhabitable for many years
Already last August, Norwegian authorities said they were closely monitoring the situation surrounding nuclear power plants in Ukraine. The power plant in Zaporizhia is the largest in Europe and an accident there would be disastrous for the civilian population.
– This is a very high-value goal, and therefore the Ukrainians will be very wary of an uncontrolled meltdown inside the nuclear power plant. You can never be completely sure. Because the Russians could also see themselves benefiting from blowing up the power plant if they were in danger of losing territory to the advancing Ukrainian forces. If they succeed, the liberated areas will be uninhabitable for many years.
The US authorities are aware of this and are following developments closely. The so-called telephone hotline between the Pentagon and the General Staff in Moscow had only been used once before in the war, and that was when Russian missiles struck dangerously close to this nuclear power plant.
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