No Russian heavy weapons at captured nuclear site – Moscow
Russian armed forces are not using the captured Zaporozhye nuclear power plant for military purposes, contrary to Kiev's claims, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Friday. The ongoing mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will hopefully verify this, he added.
Speaking during a working meeting, Russia's top defense official reported that since July 18 there have been 29 attacks against the Ukrainian plant, which is located in the city of Energodar. Some 120 artillery projectiles and 16 kamikaze drones were used, he added.
Shoigu dismissed as “blatant lies” Ukrainian claims that Russia was using the facility to attack Ukrainian positions “with long-range artillery systems”.
“I state with confidence that we do not have heavy weapons at the territory of the nuclear power stations and in adjacent neighborhoods,” the minister said. “I hope [members of] the IAEA inspection will confirm it with their own eyes.”
The delegation of the UN’s nuclear watchdog arrived at the station on Thursday for a long-awaited on-site inspection. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky claimed that Russia was trying to turn the mission “into a fruitless excursion” and accused IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi of failing to secure access to the station for a group of “independent journalists” who’d wanted to travel with the inspectors from Ukraine.
“We hope that the mission will make objective conclusions from the situation at the plant nevertheless,” Zelensky said in a video address on Thursday evening.
He added that Ukraine’s goal was “demilitarization” of the Zaporozhye site. Moscow previously said it would not accept a full pullout of troops away from Energodar because it didn’t trust Kiev to do the same. On Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry reported thwarting a Ukrainian attempt to capture the power station through an amphibious commando operation.
Kiev claims that Russia is the party that has been launching attacks on the plant, with a purported goal of smearing Ukraine’s reputation. It also reported that Russian heavy weapons were present at the facility.
During the Friday meeting, Shoigu stressed that Kiev risked a nuclear disaster by attacking the Zaporozhye site. He accused the US and the EU of “hushing up” Ukraine’s role and in doing so “encouraging” Kiev to launch more strikes.
“All responsibility for possible emergencies caused by possible future provocations will lay on the Ukrainian authorities,” he warned.