Russia accused of having “kidnapped” the head of the Ukrainian nuclear power plant


KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces have blindfolded and detained the head of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, Ukraine’s nuclear power utility said Saturday, rekindling longstanding fears about the safety of the central.

Friday’s alleged kidnapping apparently took place shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin escalated his war in Ukraine and pushed it into a dangerous new phase by annexing four Ukrainian regions that Moscow fully or partially controls and increasing threats of nuclear force.

In a possible attempt to secure Moscow’s hold on the newly annexed territory, Russian forces seized the general manager of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Ihor Murashov, around 4 p.m. Friday, Ukraine’s nuclear company Energoatom said.

Putin on Friday signed treaties to absorb Ukraine’s Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, including the area around the nuclear power plant.

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Energoatom said Russian troops stopped Murashov’s car, blindfolded him and then took him to an undisclosed location.

“His detention by (Russia) jeopardizes the security of Ukraine and of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant,” Energoatom chairman Petro Kotin said, demanding the director’s immediate release.

Russia did not immediately admit to seizing the plant manager.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Saturday that Russia told it that “the general director of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been temporarily detained to answer questions.”

The Vienna-based IAEA said, “in accordance with its nuclear safety mandate”, that it is “actively seeking clarification and expecting a prompt and satisfactory resolution of this matter”.

The power plant has repeatedly been caught in the crossfire of war in Ukraine. Ukrainian technicians continued to operate the power plant after Russian troops seized it. Its last reactor was shut down in September as a precaution, as constant shelling nearby damaged the plant’s power transmission lines.

The plant is a strategic trophy for Russia and has caused global concern as the only nuclear plant caught in modern warfare. Active fighting nearby means it is unlikely to start generating power again soon, even if Russia installs its own management.

It’s like a city in its own right, with some 11,000 workers before the war. While many fled amid the fighting, others remained to secure its radioactive materials and structures.

Energoatom spokespersons told The Associated Press on Saturday that employees of the Zaporizhzhia power plant are forced to submit requests to report to Rosatom, the Russian nuclear power giant that operates Russian nuclear power plants. .

Murashov was against handing over the Zaporizhzhia plant to Rosatom, but Energoatom spokesmen could not confirm that this was the reason for his kidnapping.

Murashov had access to security codes, coordinated all work at the plant, ensured protocols were followed and reported to Kyiv, according to Energoatom spokespersons. Ukrainian authorities appointed him to run the plant several days before Russian troops arrived in Ukraine.

Nevertheless, Energoatom said that it did not lose its relationship with the plant, and all important parameters of its work were still reported to Kyiv.

Karmanau reported from Tallinn, Estonia.

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