Russia is accused of ‘kidnapping’ the head of Ukraine’s nuclear power plant

Kyiv – Ukraine’s nuclear energy supplier on Saturday accused Russia of “kidnapping” the head of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, a facility now occupied by Russian troops and located in a region of Ukraine owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin shifted to annex illegally.

Russian troops seized the general director of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, said Ihor Murashov, Friday around 4 p.m., said the Ukrainian state-owned nuclear company Energoatom. That was just hours after Putin signed deals to incorporate Moscow-controlled Ukrainian territory into Russia in a sharp escalation of his war.

Energoatom said Russian troops stopped Murashov’s car, blindfolded him and then took him to an undisclosed location.

“His detention by (Russia) endangers the security of Ukraine and Europe’s largest nuclear power plant,” Energoatom President Petro Kotin said.

Kotin urged Russia to release Murashov immediately.

Russia did not immediately admit to arresting the plant manager. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which has staff at the plant, did not immediately acknowledge Energoatom’s claim about Murashov’s capture.

The Zaporizhia plant was repeatedly caught in the crossfire of the war in Ukraine. Ukrainian technicians continued to operate it after Russian troops seized the power plant. The last reactor of the plant was shut down in September due to continued shelling near the facility.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that the war in Ukraine was over “a crucial moment.” He called Putin’s decision to take over more territory – Russia now claims sovereignty over 15% of Ukraine – “the largest attempt at forcible annexation of European territory since World War II”.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, however, a Ukrainian counteroffensive that embarrassed the Kremlin last month by liberating a region bordering Russia was on the verge of retaking more ground, according to military analysts.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said Ukraine is likely to retake another key Russian-held city in the east of the country in the next few days. Ukrainian forces have already encircled the town of Lyman, some 160 kilometers southeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.

Citing Russian reports, the institute said it appeared Russian forces were withdrawing from Lyman. That matches online videos allegedly showing some Russian forces retreating just as a Ukrainian soldier said they had reached Lyman’s outskirts.

Ukraine’s military has yet to claim it took Lyman, and Russian-backed forces claimed they were sending more troops to the area.

Ukraine is also making “incremental” gains around Kupyansk and the east bank of the Oskil River, which have become a key front line since Ukraine’s counteroffensive regained control of the Kharkiv region in September.

Ukraine’s military claimed on Saturday that Russia must use cadets before they complete their training because of a wartime labor shortage. Putin last week ordered a mass mobilization of Russian army reservists to supplement his troops in Ukraine and thousands of Men have fled the country to avoid calling.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s military said cadets from the Tyumen Military School and the Ryazan Airborne School would be sent to take part in Russia’s mobilization. There were no details on how it gathered the information, though Kyiv electronically intercepted cellphone calls made by Russian soldiers during the conflict.

In a daily intelligence briefing, Britain’s Defense Ministry highlighted an attack on Friday in the city of Zaporizhia that killed 30 people and wounded 88 others.

The British military said the Russians “almost certainly” encountered a humanitarian convoy carrying S-300 anti-aircraft missiles there. Russia is increasingly using anti-aircraft missiles to conduct ground attacks, likely due to a shortage of ammunition, the British said on Saturday.

“Russia’s inventory of such missiles is most likely limited and represents a valuable resource destined to shoot down modern aircraft and incoming missiles rather than use them against ground targets,” the British said. “Its use for ground attacks was almost certainly caused by the general shortage of ammunition, particularly for longer-range precision missiles.”

The British briefing noted that the attack came while Putin was preparing to sign the annexation treaties.

“Russia is expending strategically valuable military assets to gain a tactical advantage, killing civilians whom it now claims are its own citizens,” it said.


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Sarah Y. Kim

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