Russia, Ukraine feud over ‘dangerous’ attack on Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Kyiv accuses Moscow of spreading ‘fake’ information of an attack on Europe’s largest nuclear plant to stir more tension.

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, considered Europe's largest, is located outside the city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhia region of Ukraine [File: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Moscow has accused Ukraine of launching “very dangerous” drone attacks on the Russia-controlled Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant – allegations that Kyiv described as “fake” information.

In a statement on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the incident as “a very dangerous provocation”.

“This is a very dangerous practice that has very, very bad negative consequences in the long term. Unfortunately, the Kyiv regime continues its terrorist activity.”

Russia said Ukraine struck the plant three times on Sunday and demanded the West respond, though Kyiv said it had nothing to do with the attacks.

Kyiv said Moscow is trying to spread “fake” information within the Ukrainian territory to stir more tension.

The head of Ukraine’s Center for Countering Disinformation, Lieutenant Andriy Kovalenko, said Russia was intensifying a “campaign of provocation and fakes”.

Russia is attacking the station “with drones, pretending that the threat to the plant and nuclear safety is coming from Ukraine”, Kovalenko said.

Since the start of Russia’s 2022 invasion, the facility has been occupied by Russian forces. Control over the nuclear facility has been a source of heated exchange and accusations between Moscow and Kyiv.

Russian authorities had repeatedly accused Kyiv of plotting an act of “sabotage” at Zaporizhzhia.

‘Simulated strikes’

The Zaporizhzhia plant in southern Ukraine is Europe’s largest such facility.

The nuclear plant has six Soviet-designed VVER-1000 V-320 water-cooled and water-moderated reactors containing uranium-235. There is also spent nuclear fuel at the facility.

Reactors one, two, five and six are in cold shutdown while reactor number three is shut down for repair and number four is in a so-called “hot shutdown”, according to the plant’s administration.

Russia’s nuclear agency Rosatom said there was a “series of attacks” on Sunday, with one drone striking the site’s canteen, wounding three staff members, one of them “severely”.

Drones also reportedly hit a cargo port and the roof of one of the site’s six reactors, it said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has experts at the plant, said the attacks caused a “physical impact” on one reactor and resulted in one casualty, but nuclear safety was not compromised.

Rosatom called on Western nations and IAEA chief Rafael Grossi to “categorically condemn the attempt to escalate the situation around the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe”.

Kovalenko accused Russia of “manipulating the concerns of the IAEA” and “trying to accuse Ukraine of nuclear terrorism”.

A spokesman for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence’s main directorate of intelligence, Andriy Yusov, had earlier accused Russia of endangering the power station and carrying out “simulated strikes”, which it then blamed on Kyiv.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies