Russian forces kidnapped two employees of the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) on Monday, July 18. The captured individuals were named as two specialists in the field of decontamination: Olena Riabtseva and Serhiy Pikhtin – the latter being the Deputy Director of the “Department of Decontamination” at the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.
Earlier, the plant’s Chief of the “Department for Environmental Protection” was kidnapped by Russians. He has not been seen since.
The company said that the whereabouts of the employees was not known and went on to say that this was yet another effort by the Russians to destabilize the workings of the energy plant over the past quarter-of-a-year.
Russia has provoked significant global concern due to its reckless treatment of nuclear facilities in Ukraine. Earlier news reports indicated that Russia had camped soldiers on the grounds of two nuclear facilities and forced, by gun, nuclear operators to work around-the-clock. Other reports indicated that Russia had used weapons near the facilities. It had been posited that Russia was using the facilities as “hostages” as Ukraine would not risk firing on Russian positions next to nuclear reactors.
On Tuesday, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) stated that it had collected enough “irrefutable evidence” to criminally prove that Russia had committed “nuclear terrorism” between its February 24 – March 31 occupation of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (NPP).
The SBU’s statement continued that the spy agency “is recording and investigating the occupiers’ crimes and has already notified the invader who gave the order to storm Chernobyl NPP of suspicion,” going on to say that it was the former Deputy Commander of Siberian District of the National Guard of Russia, Major General O. Yakushev. Likewise, the SBU had identified the Deputy Commander of the Combined Special Purposes Unit of the Russian National Guard in Bryansk, A. Frolenkov, as being the one responsible for directly supervising “the actions of his subordinates during the attack on this facility.”
The SBU noted that even though “the reactors do not work, the enterprise is still a huge complex with three storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel and a number of radioactive waste fields. By turning this facility into its temporary military base, Russia has flagrantly violated the Geneva Conventions, which directly forbid attacks on nuclear facilities during an armed conflict.”
Incredibly, reports at the time cited evidence that, despite a serious threat of nuclear contamination, Russia housed approximately 1,000 soldiers in the nuclear exclusion zone. Additionally, another 330 Russian soldiers were sent into the “Spent Fuel Storage Facility,” which is particularly radioactive.
During Russia’s spring occupation of the nuclear complex, the SBU notes that the foreign invaders threatened staff and fired weapons from the territory of the facility. Additionally, the occupiers damaged the communications towers of Chernobyl, thereby knocking the station’s monitoring systems offline.
According to the European Space Agency and NASA, around 14,000 hectares of land around the Exclusion Zone, which was contaminated by the 1986 explosion at the facility, caught fire during the Russian occupation.
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