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Russia temporarily suspends inspections under key nuclear weapons treaty

A serviceman with a Russian flag on his uniform stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine on August 4.
A serviceman with a Russian flag on his uniform stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine on August 4. Alexander Ermochenko/REUTERS

On Tuesday, the head of the Ukrainian state-owned nuclear power company Energoatom warned that Ukraine and Europe could face another Fukishima if the power supply to the massive Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power plant is further disrupted. 

Speaking to CNN on Tuesday in Kyiv, Petro Kotin said that only one power line to the massive complex was now operational after shelling damaged the lines in the past few days. 

“If there is no connection to the grid, then you cannot provide electricity from the outside, then the diesel generators will start. But everything will depend on the reliability of those generators. … This is a dangerous situation, because if those stop you could have a disaster of melting nuclear materials,” he said, comparing the potential fallout to the Fukishima disaster in Japan. 

The Fukishima plant’s reactor overheated when the backup power supply failed after the impact of the Tsunami in 2011. 

Kotin said that Energoatom has supplies ready to go into the facility for repairs, but they haven’t been able to enter the site. 

The Zaporizhzhia plant occupies an extensive site on the Dnipro River. It has continued operating at reduced capacity since Russian forces captured it early in March, with Ukrainian technicians remaining at work. 

On Sunday, Ukraine's Energoatom released a statement that said that one worker had been injured by Russian shelling around the facility on Saturday.

Kotin said that Russian soldiers have not been firing from inside the large complex, but close to its outskirts. He said Russia continues to occupy Zaporizhizhia with around 500 soldiers and hardware and that Russian soldiers moved assets into two special blast bunkers in recent days. 

There are around 1000 employees still on the site, according to Kotin, who have kept communications lines open but are working under constant stress of the occupying force including beatings and threats.  

“If the situation worsens, we need to think about our population at the plant. We are planning on how, during war conditions, we will be able to evacuate the personnel.”

“Great release of radioactivity could happen from there. There could be a cloud, a radioactive cloud,” he said, adding that the international community needs to work quickly to demilitarize the zone. 

Kotin told CNN that the ultimate plan of the Russians is to disconnect the plant from powering Ukraine and connect it to the grid to power occupied Crimea. 

Like other Ukrainian officials, he blames Russia for shelling the complex – he said the distance of the incoming strikes suggested Russian positions. 

Russia blames Ukraine. 

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, accused Ukraine of “taking Europe hostage” by shelling Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, according to Russian state news agency TASS. 

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