The repeated shelling of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, which has been occupied by the Russian army since the beginning of March, is causing alarm worldwide. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned of a nuclear disaster. According to media reports, Russia has now said it will allow international experts to inspect the plant. Europe’s press tries to work out how far Putin is willing to go with this game.

Today, Europe’s press debates the volatile situation in Zaporizhzhia and its implications for Ukraine and the rest of the world. Here are some opinions from a selection of European publications presented by eurotopics.

Putin’s nuclear blackmail

The Russian president is using his last trump, writes NV’s political commentator Dmitro Tusov:

“What will putin [lower case in original] do when he realises that his scenarios won’t work out and that he, the great and fearsome leader, will lose the war? Because he is losing the war in Ukraine. After all, he had hoped for a conventional Austrian version of annexation – with flowers and tears from enthusiastic supporters of the Russian world. This plan has not worked in any of Ukraine’s regions. What will putin do when he recognises his failure? … He is convinced that nuclear blackmail can force the West to stop providing military aid to Ukraine.”

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The dangerous inferiority of the Russians

The fighting around the nuclear power plant shows just how desperate Moscow is, Spotmedia says:

“The Russians have nothing left to use as a threat on the front lines and are hiding in the shadow of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant out of fear, which shows just how desperate they are. And it shows that they have no way of resuming the offensive against Ukraine. And it also demonstrates something else, something very scary: they are ready to resort to the nuclear option just to avoid defeat. Their plan is to hold an accession referendum for the occupied territories as soon as possible and annex them to Russia, then blackmail Ukraine with tactical nuclear strikes on the grounds that the Ukrainians are encroaching on Russian territory.”

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KGB-style machiavellianism?

La Stampa is sceptical:

“President Zelensky, always on the lookout for strong words for the script of his evening sermons to the nation – and not only to them – has explicitly denounced ‘Russian nuclear terrorism’. … But following this logic one is more inclined to doubt the accusation, since the plant has long been occupied by Russian soldiers. And it seems strange, to say the least, that they could be so malicious or diabolical as to blow themselves up. Criminal KGB-style machiavellianism this may be. But they would unleash a catastrophe of which they themselves would be the first victims.”

Shield and generator

De Volkskrant explains how important the Zaporizhzhia plant is for Moscow’s plans:

“It is still unclear who is behind the shelling, but what is certain is that Russian troops are using the plant as a shield from behind which they can carry out attacks on the Ukrainians. … Moscow sees the plant as crucial to supplying electricity to the areas it occupies along the southern coast. It is aiming to hold a ‘referendum’ that would allow it to annex Zaporizhzhia province. This would be a gross violation of international law, and would only fuel the tensions over the nuclear power plant.”

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