Ukraine Says Russians “Gradually” Leaving Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant

June 30, 2023

The Ukrainian Defense Intelligence Directorate on Friday said that the Russians stationed at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant were “gradually leaving.”

“The occupiers are reducing their presence at the ZNPP,” the intel arm of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense said in a Telegram post. “According to the most recent data, the occupation contingent is gradually leaving the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.”

The Directorate added that three employees of Russia’s state-run nuclear company, Rosatom, “were among the first to leave the plant,” further stating that Ukrainian employees who had signed contracts with Rosatom were also advised to leave the area for Russian-occupied Crimea.

The claim came one day after Ukrainian emergency workers held emergency drills at the nuclear power plant—the largest in Europe—in preparation for any potential radiation leakage amid Russia’s occupation. 

Russia took occupation of the Zaporizhzhia plant in the early days of the war. It has repeatedly been caught in the crossfire and forced to run on backup systems in the 16 months since Russia invaded Ukraine and quickly seized the facility. 

In mid-June Rafael Mariano Grossi, Chief of the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), inspected the plant. His visit came in the aftermath of the destruction of the Kakhovka dam in the Kherson region, which supplies cooling water to the facility.

Amid his visit Grossi called the situation in Zaporizhzhia “serious” following the dam’s destruction, but said it was being stabilized. 

The plant’s six reactors have been shut down for months, but it still needs power and staff to operate crucial systems and safety features.

Ukraine’s military intelligence recently claimed that Russia is planning a “large-scale provocation” at the nuclear power plant, though it provided no evidence. Last week, members of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government briefed international representatives on the possible threat.

In one of his nightly addresses last week, Zelensky charged Russia with using the Zaporizhzhia plant “as an element of aggression,” and to “cover the shelling of nearby neighborhoods.” 

On Friday, multiple explosions hit the occupied port city of Berdiansk in the  Zaporizhzhia region, the city’s administration officials reported on Telegram.

“There is fire and detonations in the airport area. Ambulances headed in that direction. We are awaiting for official information from the General Staff of the AFU [Armed Forces Ukraine],” the Telegram posting said.

Russia’s installed official in Zaporizhzhia, Vladimir Rogov, claimed the blasts were caused by Russian air defenses downing missiles fired by Ukraine.

PHOTO: Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, September 2022 per IAEA

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