Failed Ukrainian nuclear plant attack revealed – The Times
A “highly dangerous” Ukrainian operation to capture the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant last year ended in failure due to heavy Russian resistance, The Times reported on Friday, citing sources.
According to Kiev’s military personnel interviewed by the British newspaper, the attack involved some 600 elite Ukrainian soldiers who tried to cross the Dnieper River on October 19 by boat.
The operation hinged on the presumption that Moscow’s troops would not be able to fire artillery so close to the nuclear power plant, which is the largest in Europe, one officer told The Times.
However, the paper’s sources said the team met unexpected resistance. Moscow’s forces had “mined everything” and “even pulled up tanks and artillery” to fire on Kiev’s forces while they were on the water, the officer added.
The assault was supported by Ukrainian artillery, including US-made HIMARS systems, but Russian resistance resulted in only a fraction of the Ukrainian force coming ashore. After a three-hour firefight on the outskirts of Energodar, where the plant is located, the Ukrainian soldiers were forced to retreat, the report says.
Some senior Ukrainian officials viewed the offensive as controversial, with the president of Ukraine’s nuclear operator Energoatom, Pyotr Kotin, telling The Times: “it is very dangerous to do such things near nuclear material. Any damage will bring radiation to the people and to the whole world.”
The report corroborates a Russian Defense Ministry statement at the time claiming that on October 19 Kiev’s forces attempted – without success – to mount an amphibious operation in the area, involving up to two Ukrainian companies and a total of 37 boats. The military claimed Ukraine lost over 90 soldiers in the operation.
Russia and Ukraine have repeatedly accused each other of shelling the Zaporozhye NPP, which has been under Moscow’s control since last February. Russian officials have on numerous occasions warned that Kiev’s attacks could trigger a nuclear disaster.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has called on both parties to create a safe zone around the facility, but the negotiations on the matter have failed to achieve a breakthrough.
In late March, Rafael Grossi, the nuclear watchdog’s chief, said the idea was no longer being considered. Instead of establishing a safe zone, the IAEA now wants Kiev and Moscow to promise not to target the plant, or use it for staging attacks.