The International Atomic Energy Administration has issued a warning that Russian security forces allegedly placed high explosives near the Ukrainian nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhia.
“IAEA representatives reported the deployment of military equipment, weapons and explosives by the Russian occupiers in the turbine department of Zaporizhzhia NPP Unit 4,” the Ukrainian report states. “This became known during the weekly meeting on communication between the IAEA Crisis Center (IEC) and the SNRIU on the activities of the IAEA mission at the Zaporizhzhia NPP site, which took place on May 2, 2023. As a reminder, at the end of July 2022, the Russian military placed heavy military equipment with ammunition, as well as weapons and explosives in the engine room of ZNPP Unit 1.”
“In early August 2022, information was received on the deployment of military equipment in the engine room of ZNPP Unit 2,” the report added. “The SNRIU also receives information on storage of equipment, weapons and explosives in other production facilities of SE Zaporizhzhia NPP through unofficial channels, including mechanical repair shops and on the roofs of power units. The new criminal actions of the Russian occupiers are another step that causes significant damage to the nuclear and radiation safety of nuclear facilities at the industrial site of the Zaporizhzhia NPP. Inadequate decisions and actions of the Russian military endanger both the personnel of the nuclear power plant and residents of nearby settlements.”
“Once again, we emphasize that in the event of an emergency at ZNPP with a potential release of radioactive substances into the environment, not only Ukraine will feel the consequences – they will have a transboundary character,’ the report added. “Nuclear terrorism, resorted to by the Russian Federation, is an unacceptable phenomenon in the civilized world. We call on the international community to consolidate and decisive response to the actions of the aggressor country, to apply tough sanctions to enterprises of the nuclear industry of the Russian Federation and affiliated persons. We emphasize that the Russian Federation should be deprived of all rights and privileges in the IAEA and other international institutions in the field of nuclear energy use.”
The news comes as a top ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky should be killed after the Kremlin claimed to have foiled a Ukrainian attack. Russian officials are reportedly labeling Zelensky and Ukraine the “Kyiv terrorist regime” and are ready to strike Zelenskyy’s home following reports that Ukraine attempted to assassinate Putin.
“After today’s terrorist attack, there are no options left other than the physical elimination of Zelensky and his clique,” Kremlin Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president under Putin, wrote on social media.
The incident involved “two unmanned aerial vehicles” that were brought down “without causing any casualties or damage” at the Kremlin, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov’s office. Putin was not at the Kremlin at the time, Peskov told state media.
“We view these actions as a planned terrorist attack and an assassination attempt targeting the President,” Peskov’s office said. “Russia reserves the right to take countermeasures wherever and whenever it deems appropriate.”
Medvedev also said that Putin now has no choice other than to “annihilate” (or “eliminate”) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Ukrainian officials denied conducting such an operation and suggested that the incident might have been perpetrated by Russian dissidents, if not staged by the government. Zelensky told reporters while traveling in Finland, “We don’t attack Putin or Moscow. We fight on our territory. We are defending our villages and cities. We don’t have enough weapons for this. That’s why we don’t use it anywhere [else]. For us, that is a deficit. We can’t spend it. And we didn’t attack Putin. We leave it to [a] tribunal.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed skepticism about the Russian allegations but maintained that they don’t know what really happened. “I can’t in any way validate them; we simply don’t know,” Blinken said during a Washington Post live event. “And it’s really hard to comment or speculate on this without really knowing what the facts are.”
Zelensky’s team suggested that Putin would use the incident to justify a retaliatory operation. “Russia is clearly preparing a large-scale terrorist attack,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhailo Podolyak tweeted. “Ukraine wages an exclusively defensive war and does not attack targets on the territory of the Russian Federation. What for? This does not solve any military issue.”