Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant © Getty Images

Ukraine: Russia’s military activities at nuclear plant risk safety in region

Responding to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s findings that Russia is stationing forces in the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), confirming information that Amnesty International received in August, Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Research in Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia office, said:

“By occupying the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Russian forces are not only endangering those in the plant and its surroundings, but also heightening the risk of a nuclear catastrophe across the region.

“By placing its forces on the territory of the plant and in its immediate vicinity, Russia bears primary responsibility for the potentially devastating consequences of a nuclear accident. Amnesty International calls for full demilitarization of the power plant and its immediate surroundings.

“On top of the obvious dangers of militarizing the power plant, a local resident told Amnesty that Ukrainians, including staff who Russian forces suspect of documenting their activities near the plant, have reportedly been subjected to brutal reprisals. Some were abducted and tortured in the basement of the building previously used by the Security Service of Ukraine.”

In August, Amnesty was also informed by a local resident and a member of ZNPP staff that Russian military personnel at the plant were restricting the movement of staff and also subjecting them to intrusive personal searches. Amnesty International was not able to verify these worrying allegations from other sources. However, the IAEA findings confirm the presence of Russian troops on the plant and restrictions of staff movement.

IAEA has also reported physical damage to the ZNPP’s facilities resulting from the military activities in the vicinity, including shelling. Amnesty International’s local sources said that the damage was the result of Russian forces firing mortars from occupied Ukrainian territory, allegedly to blame the Ukrainian forces. Amnesty has been unable to verify these claims but is concerned to hear that IAEA confirms the damage resulting from shelling, including on dates specifically described by our local sources.

IAEA stopped short of naming either side as responsible for the shelling and has demanded that both sides cease all such military activity.

Background

IAEA has published its report: Nuclear Safety, Security and Safeguards in Ukraine, 2nd Summary Report by the Director General 28 April – 5 September 2022 (ukraine-2ndsummaryreport_sept2022.pdf (iaea.org)

The IAEA reported its team observed “the presence of Russian military personnel, vehicles and equipment at various places at the ZNPP, including several military trucks on the ground floor of the Unit 1 and Unit 2 turbine halls and military vehicles stationed under the overpass connecting the reactor units”. It called for “the immediate establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone”.