Putin ‘must pay heavy price for nuclear blackmail’ and ‘terrorist’ attack

Russia bomb areas near the Kakhovka dam

Vladimir Putin is guilty of “nuclear blackmail” when it comes to Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, while his “terrorist actions” also resulted in the destruction of Kakhovka dam, a Ukrainian expert has warned.

Olena Lapenko was speaking in response to claims by Volodymyr Zelensky related to the facility, which its troops have occupied since the early stages of the war after the invasion of February 24, 2022.

During his nightly news address on July 4, the Ukrainian President accused Putin of plotting a “new evil”, explaining: “Now we have information from our intelligence that the Russian military has placed objects resembling explosives on the roof of several power units of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

“Perhaps to simulate an attack on the plant. Perhaps they have some other scenario. But in any case, the world sees – can’t but see – that the only source of danger to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is Russia and no one else.”

Russia responded by suggesting Ukraine itself was planning to sabotage the plant in a “false flag” attack in order to give NATO an excuse to intervene in the war directly.

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However, Ms Lapenko, who specialises in energy security at the Kyiv-based DiXi think tank, said such accusations were clear examples of Kremlin disinformation spread by state media, including Tass.

She told Express.co.uk: “The situation at the Zaporizhzhia NPP is another strand of Russian nuclear blackmail.

“The failure of Russia’s plan to quickly take over Ukraine and establish Kremlin-controlled power has transformed into an attempt to destroy the country physically and economically.”

Russia was unconcerned about the humanitarian and environmental impact of its aggression, Ms Lapenko stressed.

She explained: “A terrorist understands and respects only the language of force, so the leadership of the Russian Federation must clearly understand the consequences of committing a terrorist attack on the ZNPP.

“As the last two years show, no warnings against the reckless aggressor have any effect, unless decisive actions are taken like increased military aid, persistent economic sanctions pressure and invitation to joining NATO.

“Therefore, the West needs to demonstrate the strength and consistency of its position in support of Ukraine.”

One important measure, which she said should have been implemented a year ago, was to “limit the influence of the Russians in the nuclear industry”, Ms Lapenko said.

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This includes reducing the influence of Russians in the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) for example by removing its representatives from the management of the IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy.

Additionally sanctions needed to be imposed on Rosatom in order to limit its presence in the global nuclear market, and steps taken to hamper Russia’s ability to build and maintain of nuclear power plants, as well as supplying them with fuel, uranium enrichment and conversion, Ms Lapenko argued.

She added: “The other thing that is worth and must be done right now is to remove Russians and Russian companies from all scientific research projects conducted in the nuclear sector.

“You will never be certain that the acquired scientific knowledge will not turn a ‘peaceful atom’ into another nuclear weapon.”

The Kakhovka Dam was breached in the early hours of June 6, causing extensive flooding along the lower Dnieper river.

Russia has likewise denied any involvement, but an investigation by experts from the UK-based organisation Global Rights Compliance found it “highly likely” its operatives were to blame.

Ms Lapenko said: “Russia’s terrorist actions at the Kakhovka HPP and the Zaporizhzhia NPP indicate that any country with the Russian Federation having control over strategically important facilities has direct risks of misusing such facilities to achieve political or military goals.

“The riskiest project with regard to the Russia’s future influence is the Akkuyu NPP construction in Turkey, where Rosatom implements the project under the BOO (build-own-operate) model, and then can have a significant influence on the decision-making of Turkish authorities, including political decisions.”

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