Russia rejects claims it plans to leave Zaporizhzhia

28 November 2022

The Russian president's press secretary Dmitry Peskov denied Ukrainian suggestions that Russian forces were preparing to withdraw from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Zaporizhzhia unit 4, pictured here before the current war (Image: Energoatom)

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said: "There is no need to look for some signs where they are not and cannot be."

It followed comments from Ukrainian nuclear power plant operator Energoatom's boss, Petro Kotin, at the weekend, with Reuters reporting him as saying: "In recent weeks we are effectively receiving information that signs have appeared that they are possibly preparing to leave the [plant]."

The news agency also reported Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak as saying on Sunday he thought Russian forces would leave the plant as "the defence line is starting to retreat to the borders of the Russian Federation".

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is the largest in Europe, with six reactors. It has been under the control of Russian military forces since the start of March, although it has continued to be operated by its Ukrainian staff. It is on the frontline of the war and, for safety reasons, its reactors are in shutdown and not generating electricity for the Ukrainian grid. Parts of the site have been hit by shelling a number of times, most recently a week ago, and it has also, on occasion, lost access to external power and had to rely on emergency diesel generators to provide the power it needs for safety and security measures.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been seeking to get agreement on the creation of a safety and protection zone at, and around, the plant. Although both sides have agreed to the idea, there is yet to be an agreement on the details of how it would work in practice. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi continues to hold talks with both sides as he seeks to get an agreement, which he says is crucial to ensure the safety of the plant.

Last Thursday, Russia's TASS news agency reported that senior Russian officials including Mijhail Ulyanov, the country's permanent representative to international organisations in Vienna, had told it that any safety or protection zone around Zaporizhzhia would have to reflect Russian control of the plant.

On Friday, Russia's nuclear power company Rosatom said it was seeking to repair the shelling-damaged high-voltage switchgear near the Zaporozhzhia thermal power plant, reflecting the "great importance of preserving energy supply for the safety" of the plant.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News