Intelligence chiefs in Kyiv have issued an alert over what they claim are Russian plans to simulate an accident at the occupied Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, in an attempt to halt the Ukrainian counteroffensive aimed at retaking territory.
An emergency leak of radioactive substances will be announced in the coming hours, the defence ministry claimed in an online statement oN Friday evening, warning that Ukraine will “traditionally be blamed for the incident”.
“The occupiers are preparing large-scale provocations to create a centre of radiation danger,” the message read.
“The rioters”, it warned, would simulate an accident at Zaporizhia, which is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and has been under Russian control for more than a year.
“For this, a strike will be carried out directly on the territory of the ZNPP,” the ministry wrote.
“In order to hide their actions as much as possible, the Russians disrupted the staff rotation of the permanent monitoring mission of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] scheduled for today.
“The purpose of this action is to provoke the international community to conduct a detailed investigation during which all hostilities will be stopped.
“In this way, the Rashists hope to get the desired pause, which will be used to regroup the occupation contingent and stop the Ukrainian counteroffensive.”
Ukrainian MP Inna Sovsun warned: “This dangerous operation is disguised as a false flag attack by #Ukraine, aiming to unleash devastating radiation.”
Appealing to the IAEA chief Rafael Grossi to intervene, she said: “We cannot allow this to happen! Together, we must prevent this catastrophic nuclear provocation and safeguard the #Zaporizhzhia region from further devastation.
“Time is of the essence. Let’s act swiftly and decisively to ensure peace and safety.”
The ministry added later: “Russians are going to use this so desirable pause for the regrouping of the occupational personnel and to stop the Ukrainian counteroffensive.”
The nuclear power plant has been the focus of some of the greatest fears since Russian forces took it over.
The area has been repeatedly hit by shelling and the plant has had to rely on emergency generators after losing external power since the war began. Both sides have accused the other of causing the outages.
Last week witnesses said Russian military forces had been enhancing defensive positions in and around the plant ahead of the counter-offensive.