Ukraine war: Russia says invasion ‘won’t go nuclear’ after Chernobyl power cut


Chernobyl was cut off from the national power grid by Russian forces, sparking fears of a radiation leak (Image: AP/AFP)

Russia’s foreign minister said the invasion of Ukraine “won’t go nuclear” and accused the West of obsessing over the issue.

Sergei Lavrov said he did not believe the conflict would develop into a nuclear war and said the issue had only been thrown into the discussion by the West, which, like Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, kept coming back to it.

Asked by a Kremlin correspondent for the Russian newspaper Kommersant if he believed a nuclear war could be triggered, Lavrov told reporters in Turkey: “I don’t want to believe it, and I don’t believe it.”

He added: “Of course it worries us when the West, like Freud, keeps coming back to this issue.”

The press conference came as Ukraine’s national electricity grid operator said it had a team ready to restore power to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and was waiting for the creation of a safe corridor.

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The site of the world’s worst nuclear accident was shut down by Russian forces yesterday, sparking fears of a radiation leak.

The plant will run on reserve backup generators that officials say only have a 48-hour capacity.

Although Chernobyl is no longer a working power plant, it has never been completely abandoned and still requires constant management.

The failure could endanger nuclear material cooling systems, meaning radioactive material could be released into the air.

Belarusian authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko – a close ally of Russia – has hired specialists to ensure electricity supply to the Ukrainian plant, according to Belarusian state news agency BelTA.

Chernobyl is near the border with Belarus.

However, Ukraine has rejected the offer and has called for a ceasefire to allow its own officials to mend the link.

Ukrenergo, the national grid operator, said it “needs no assistance from the Belarusian side in repairing the high-voltage power line damaged by Russian shelling.”

“Our repair teams, despite the risk of enemy fire, are ready to restore the line immediately and are awaiting permission,” a statement read on Facebook.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, in a video posted to Telegram on Thursday, appealed to Russia to allow crews to repair a “special power transmission line” that she said was damaged.

“We demand that a repair team be given immediate access to repair the damage,” Vereshchuk said. “We ask the world community to pay attention to this problem.”

The UN nuclear watchdog said yesterday the outage would not affect safety.

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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the facility had “sufficient” cooling water for spent nuclear fuel.

According to Ukrainian authorities, around 20,000 spent fuel elements are stored in Chernobly.

The State Service Communications Channel (SSSCIP) tweeted: “They need constant cooling. Which is only possible if there is electricity.

“If it’s not there, the pumps won’t cool. This increases the temperature in the holding tanks.

“After this evaporation, there will be a nuclear discharge.

“The wind can spread the radioactive cloud to other regions of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and Europe.”

Russia took control of Chernobyl on the first day of the invasion and has since captured a second nuclear site.

Ukraine has accused Moscow of blackmailing the world with a nuclear disaster after its forces captured Zaporizhzhya – Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

Nato allies have refused to impose a no-fly zone to prevent the Russian air force from attacking Ukraine, fearing it would spark a wider conflict.

Last week Lavrov appeared to send a chilling warning to the West when he said a third world war would be “nuclear and destructive.”

Beatrice Fihn, who leads the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), said she had never faced such a high nuclear threat level in her life.

Experts in Britain believe nuclear war is unlikely but contingency plans must be made should Putin launch a nuclear attack on Britain.

Russia-Ukraine War: Everything You Need to Know

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the country has suffered widespread damage and loss of life in a major bombing campaign.

Over two million Ukrainian refugees have fled as cities face shortages of food, water, heat and medicines – some having to resort to melting snow for water.

Countries have retaliated with sanctions against Russia and oligarchs like Roman Abramovich, while big companies like Starbucks, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola have shut down operations in the country.

Despite these economic blows, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown no signs of calling off the attack anytime soon. Ukraine war: Russia says invasion 'won't go nuclear' after Chernobyl power cut

Justin Scacco

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