Moscow: No heavy weapons at nuke power plant

MOSCOW (AFP) — Russia’s defense ministry said Thursday that its forces did not have heavy weapons deployed at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, accusing Kyiv of preparing a “provocation” at the station.

“Russian troops have no heavy weapons either on the territory of the station or in areas around it. There are only guard units,” the ministry said in a statement.

Pointing to accusations that Russian forces have been shelling Ukrainian positions from the territory of the station, the ministry said Kyiv was planning a “provocation” during a visit to Ukraine by United Nations chief Antonio Guterres that would see Moscow “accused of creating a man-made disaster at the plant.”

It said Ukraine was deploying forces in the area and planned to launch artillery strikes on the plant from the city of Nikopol on Friday, when Guterres is due to visit Odessa.

“The blame for the consequences (of the strikes) will be placed on the Russian armed forces,” it said.

Russian forces took control of the Zaporizhzhia plant in southern Ukraine in March, shortly after moving into the country.

The plant is the largest of its kind in Europe and uncertainty surrounding it has fueled fears of a nuclear accident to rival the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

He said Moscow’s control of the plant “raises the risks of a nuclear accident or incident.”

Stoltenberg also accused Russia of using “the ground around the nuclear power plant as a staging area, as a platform, to launch artillery attacks on Ukrainian forces.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine must “prepare for all scenarios” linked to a Russian-occupied nuclear plant, the interior minister has said during a drill for emergency workers in the nearby city of Zaporizhzhia.

Dozens of Ukrainian emergency workers wearing gas masks and hazmat suits took part in the drill in which they practised evacuating an injured person and washing down contaminated vehicles.

The head of Ukraine’s state nuclear agency Energoatom, Petro Kotin, said around 500 Russian soldiers and 50 armored vehicles were at the plant.

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