Russian troops have kidnapped and detained the director of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Ukraine’s state nuclear operator Energoatom has reported.
The nuclear power plant, the scene of repeated Russian escalation and threats to the plant’s integrity, is Europe’s largest plant of its kind. Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly accused Russian invaders of targeting the plant and threatening to damage the plant in the event of further Ukrainian advances.
According to Energoatom, director Ihor Murashov was held as his car left the facility towards the nearby Russian-occupied city of Enerhodar at around 16:00 local time on Friday. Murashov was blindfolded and believed to have been taken to a makeshift prison in Enerhodar, sources told the BBC.
Moscow seized the plant in March during its initial advances into Ukrainian territory, keeping much of its Ukrainian staff at the facility to maintain its operation. Due to repeated shelling of the facility, Ukrainian authorities shut down the plant's reactors in September to avoid disaster.
Both Russian and Ukrainian authorities accuse each other of repeatedly shelling the plant, amidst growing international concern that a disaster could occur at the facility.
In a statement published on Telegram on Saturday, Energoatom president Petro Kotin stated that the nuclear power plant chief “bears main and exclusive responsibility for nuclear and radiation safety” at the plant.
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Days before the kidnapping, members of Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear operator, were reported to have visited the facility with the intention of transferring control to Russian authorities and ultimately the Russian energy grid. Kotin said that he believed that the kidnapping was an attempt to force Ukraine to transfer control of the plant.
“They are trying to make him accept the move of (the nuclear power plant) from Ukraine to Rosatom. But I am sure he is against it. Many times before he refused to accept the Russian world and so on,” he said
The president of Energoatom has appealed to the Atomic Energy Agency to demand the immediate release of the head of the Zaporizhzhia power plant, accusing Russia of “nuclear terrorism.”