Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree transferring the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) to Russian federal ownership, Ukrainian Pravda reported on October 5. In turn, Ukraine condemned the illegal action and called on international communities to implement sanctions.
Although Ukrainian staff operate the ZNPP, the plant has been under Russian occupation since March 4 and lies in the Zaporizhzhia region, one of the four territories Putin attempted to annex following sham referenda last month. Moscow wants to disconnect the plant from the Ukrainian grid and connect it with the Russian one under the management of the Russian-state company Rosatom.
"The government of the Russian Federation should ensure that the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant's nuclear facilities and other property necessary for the implementation of its activities are accepted into federal ownership," the decree says, Russian state media Tass reported.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine denounced the decree as “an illegal attempt to take the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant under its operational control” in a statement on October 6, declaring the document to be “null and void”.
“We strongly condemn this crime that further increases risks and threats in the sphere of nuclear security caused by the Russian occupation of the ZNPP,” the statement read. “We propose to the European Union, G7 states and other partners to immediately consider imposition of sanctions against Russian state corporation Rosatom, affiliated companies and institutions as well as other key players of the Russian nuclear energy sphere.”
Additionally, Putin ordered the creation of a federal state unitary enterprise "Zaporizhzhia NPP" to ensure the ‘safety’ of its facilities, as Moscow accuses Kyiv of attacking the plant. Ukraine, in turn, claims that it is Russia who is repeatedly shelling the plant and accuses Moscow of “nuclear terrorism”.
Moreover, Kyiv also accused Russia of kidnapping Ihor Murashov, director-general of the Zaporizhzhia NPP, on October 1 before releasing him two days later, Ukrainian Pravda reported. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine labelled the act as further “state terrorism by Russia”.
In response to the increasing intensity around the ZNPP, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a statement saying that its director-general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, will undertake consultations with the relevant authorities and will visit Kyiv and Russia in the following days to discuss safety measures at the ZNPP.
Following fears of a nuclear disaster, the IAEA sent a mission to inspect the plant on September 1 and demanded Russian forces leave in a resolution backed by 26 UN member states as well as the EU on September 15. The mission noted “the presence of Russian military personnel, vehicles and equipment at various places at the ZNPP”, in a report published last month.
Several IAEA experts have remained at the plant and informed the agency that preparations are underway to restart unit 5 at the ZNPP in order to produce steam and heat for the plant’s needs. The ZNPP was forced to shut down its last operating reactor, unit 6, on September 5 after hostilities at the site caused a fire.