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 stop a counter-offensive by Ukrainian aims to recover the territory.
An emergency leak of radioactive substances will be announced in the coming hours, the defense ministry claimed in an online statement on Friday evening, warning that Ukraine “is traditionally to blame for the incident”.
“The occupiers are preparing for major challenges to create a center of radiation danger,” the message read.
“The rioters”, it warns, will simulate an accident in 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.
“To hide their actions as much as possible, the Russians interrupted the rotation of the staff of the permanent monitoring mission of the IAEA. [International Atomic Energy Agency] scheduled today.
“The purpose of this action is to challenge the international community to carry out a detailed investigation where all hostilities can be stopped.
“In this way, the Rashists hope to obtain the desired pause, which will be used to regroup the work contingent and stop the Ukrainian counter-offensive.”
Ukrainian MP Inna Sovsun warned: “This dangerous operation is disguised as a false attack on the flag of #Ukraine, aiming to release harmful radiation.”
Asking IAEA chief Rafael Grossi to intervene, he said: “We cannot allow this to happen! Together, we must stop this terrible nuclear provocation and protect the region of #Zaporizhzhia from further devastation.
“Time is of the essence. We will act swiftly and decisively to ensure peace and security.”
The ministry added later: “The Russians will use this very good pause for regrouping the work staff and to stop the Ukrainian counter-offensive.”
The nuclear power plant has been at the center of some of the biggest 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 accused the other of causing the blackout.
Last week witnesses said Russian military forces were improving defensive positions in and around the plant ahead of the counteroffensive.