© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict outside Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Russian-controlled Ukraine, March 29, 2023. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
(Reuters) – Ukraine’s defence ministry on Friday said Russia was planning to simulate a major accident at a nuclear power station controlled by pro-Moscow forces to try to thwart a long-planned Ukrainian counteroffensive to retake territory occupied by Russia.
The Zaporizhzhia plant, which lies in an area of Russian-occupied southern Ukraine, is Europe’s biggest nuclear power station and the area has been repeatedly hit by shelling that both sides blame each other for.
The defence ministry’s intelligence directorate said Russian forces would soon shell the plant and then announce a radiation leak. This would force an investigation by international authorities, during which all hostilities would be stopped.
The directorate statement, posted on Telegram, did not provide any proof. It said Russia had disrupted the planned rotation of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, who are based at the plant.
The Vienna-based IAEA, which frequently posts updates on the plant, has made no mention of any disruption.
Last week witnesses said Russian military forces had been enhancing defensive positions in and around the plant ahead of the counter-offensive.
In October 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the West to warn Russia not to blow up a dam that would flood a large area. The dam was not destroyed.
In February, Russia said Ukraine was planning to stage a nuclear incident on its territory to pin the blame on Moscow.
Russia has repeatedly accused Kyiv of planning “false flag” operations with non-conventional weapons, using biological or radioactive materials. No such attack has materialised.