Russian ex-President Dmitry Medvedev has issued a veiled threat to Ukraine’s Western allies who have accused Russia of creating the risk of a nuclear catastrophe by stationing forces around the Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.
Ukraine has accused Russia of firing at Ukrainian towns from the site in the knowledge that Ukrainian forces could not risk returning fire. It says Russia has shelled the area itself while blaming Ukraine. Russia says it is Ukraine that has attacked the plant.
“They [Kyiv and its allies] say it’s Russia. That’s obviously 100 percent nonsense, even for the stupid Russophobic public,” Medvedev, now the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, wrote on his instant messenger Telegram channel on Friday.
“They say it happens purely by chance, like ‘We didn’t mean to’,” he added. “What can I say? Let’s not forget that the European Union also has nuclear power plants. And accidents can happen there, too.”
The UN nuclear chief warned late Thursday that “very alarming” military activity at the nuclear plant could lead to dangerous consequences.
International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi urged Russia and Ukraine, which blame each other for the attacks at the plant, to immediately allow nuclear experts to assess the damage and evaluate safety and security at the sprawling nuclear complex where the situation “has been deteriorating very rapidly”.
He pointed to shelling and several explosions at Zaporizhzhia last Friday that forced the shutdown of the electrical power transformer and two backup transformers, forcing the shutdown of one nuclear reactor.
Calls for demilitarisation
Kyiv and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have called for the area to be demilitarised, and the Group of Seven key economies have urged Russia to return it to Ukraine.
But senior Russian legislator Leonid Slutsky, the chair of the lower house’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said the idea of returning the plant to the control of Ukrainians was a “mockery from the point of view of ensuring safety”.
“And all the statements of the G7 foreign ministers in support of their demands are nothing but ‘sponsorship of nuclear terrorism’,” he added on his Telegram channel.
Russia seized the Zaporizhzhia plant in March after invading Ukraine on February 24, but the site is still being operated by its Ukrainian staff.
Kyiv said the complex had been struck five times on Thursday, including near where radioactive materials are stored. Russian-appointed officials said Ukraine had shelled the plant twice, disrupting a shift change, Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency reported.