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Pentagon Blasts Russian Provocations at Ukrainian Nuclear Plant as ‘Height of Irresponsibility’ | National News

“Fighting near a nuclear power plant is dangerous, is irresponsible, and we want the fighters and Russia to operate with extreme caution and conduct no actions that would result in a potential radiological release,” a senior defense official told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday morning of the Zaporizhzhia power plant in southeastern Ukraine, currently under Russian occupation.

“All of us have seen how Russia has shown a complete disregard for the security of Ukraine – of Ukraine’s nuclear power facilities,” the official said. “We’ve seen Russia show a willingness to fire on a nuclear power plant in the past, and so we see Russia’s current actions in and around this plant as really the height of irresponsibility, especially when you consider the responsibilities that come with nuclear power.”

World leaders expressed alarm on Thursday following reports that Russia had ordered its employees at the plant not to report to work on Friday, with Ukrainian officials claiming Moscow was preparing some sort of nuclear disaster it would blame on Kyiv. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters, “We do not want to experience a new Chernobyl,” shortly after meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in the eastern city of Lviv to discuss a diplomatic solution to the standoff.

No crisis materialized by the end of the day local time, though reports emerged that forces loyal to Russia had moved fighting vehicles into the plant’s compound. Rumors also circulated that Moscow planned to disconnect the plant from Ukraine’s broader power grid.

These details “may indicate the Russian forces are setting conditions to cause a provocation at the plant and to shift the information narrative to blame Ukraine for any kinetic events that occur on the territory of the plant,” the Institute for the Study of War concluded in an analysis note published Friday morning.

The plant has come under steady shelling in recent weeks with both Ukraine and Russia blaming the other for the strikes.

The Kremlin did not immediately signal what it hopes to achieve with the latest standoff, though those with deep experience countering Russian military aggression say the latest news follows a familiar playbook.

“They like having troops in that area,” retired Navy Adm. James Stavridis, the former top U.S. officer for NATO and operations in Europe, told MSNBC on Friday morning.

In addition to disrupting Ukraine’s power sources, Stavridis added, “They want us to feel as though we’re living on the edge of Three Mile Island or Chernobyl,” referring to two of the most high-profile disasters in the nuclear age.

The Kremlin has likewise issued a series of antagonistic statements since the burgeoning crisis seized national attention.

Shortly after Thursday’s diplomatic summit in Ukraine, which included an agreement for the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect the plant, a top Russian legislator for foreign affairs rebutted, “The situation around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is only heating up.”

“And the negotiations in Lviv have not yet given clear guarantees of an end to nuclear blackmail by the Ukrainian side,” Leonid Slutsky, head of the international committee within Russia’s lower house of parliament, the Duma, said on his Telegram channel.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin in a Friday phone call with his French counterpart agreed to their mutual interest in “sending an IAEA mission to the nuclear power plant as soon as possible,” according to a translation of a Russian readout of the call. Putin reiterated that the Ukrainian military has conducted systematic shelling of the plant – unfounded claims that his Defense Ministry repeated shortly afterward.

A spokesman claimed that Ukrainian forces arrived near the outskirts of the city where the plant is located and reiterated prior claims that Kyiv plans some sort of provocative action there.

Russian state media released a video Friday morning that it says depicts workers at the plant calling on Kyiv to stop the shelling.

Read More: Pentagon Blasts Russian Provocations at Ukrainian Nuclear Plant as ‘Height of Irresponsibility’ | National News

2022-08-19 14:56:57

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