Russian forces have installed several rocket launchers at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, Ukrainian officials said on Thursday, a move that raises fears that Europe’s largest atomic power plant could be used as a base for firing into Ukrainian territory.
Ukrainian nuclear power company Energoatom said in a statement that Russian forces occupying the plant have placed several Grad multiple rocket launchers near one of its six nuclear reactors, adding that the offensive systems are located in new “protective structures” that the Russians they have built in secret, “violating all conditions of nuclear and radiological safety”.
These Soviet-made multiple rocket launchers are capable of firing rockets at ranges of up to 40 kilometers, and Energoatom said they could allow Russian forces to hit the opposite bank of the Dnieper River, where each side blames the other for almost daily shelling of cities. from Nikopol and Marhanets.
The plant is in a region of southern Ukraine that the Kremlin has illegally annexed. The Zaporizhia power plant has been under Russian control since the first days of the war. Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of bombing the plant. Although the risk of a nuclear meltdown is greatly reduced because all six reactors have been shut down, experts have said a dangerous release of radiation is still possible.
The UN nuclear watchdog has stationed inspectors at the plant and has been trying to persuade both sides in the conflict to agree to a demilitarized zone around it.
It is not the first time that Ukraine has accused the Russians of having heavy weapons at the plant. The Kremlin has said it needs to maintain control of the plant to defend it against suspected Ukrainian attacks.