Amid mounting fears of a disaster and with both sides alleging the other is planning “provocations,” Ukraine‘s national energy company said that many staff had been ordered to stay home and Moscow wants to disconnect the plant from the power grid.
The Russian-occupied plant is the largest in Europe, with the two countries trading blame over who is responsible for attacks on the site in recent weeks. Concerns for the safety of the nuclear reactor have sparked growing international alarm and calls for a demilitarized zone around the site, which Russia has rejected.
Energoatom, the Ukrainian energy company, said early Friday that Russia is planning to switch off the power blocks at the Zaporizhzhia plant and disconnect them from Ukraine’s power grid, which would deny the country a major energy source. It also said that the majority of staff at the plant had been ordered to stay home, with only those who operate the power units allowed in.
“There is information that the Russian occupying forces are planning to stop working power units in the near future and disconnect them from the communication lines supplying power to the Ukrainian power system,” it said in a post Telegram. The Russian military “is looking for suppliers of fuel for diesel generators, which must be turned on after the shutdown of power units and in the absence of external power supply for nuclear fuel cooling systems.”
Energoatom did not cite any evidence to support its allegations.
On Thursday, Ukrainian military intelligence told NBC News that Russian staff at the nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine had been told not to go to work on Friday. This might be evidence that Russia is preparing “large-scale provocations” at the plant Friday, according to Andriy Yusov, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate.
Kyiv warned anew Friday that “the probability of a major act of terror at the nuclear facility is very high.”
For its part Russia said that defense systems of the plant have been strengthened due to what it said are fears of an attack on the facility by Ukraine’s military.
The comments were made by Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Russian administration that is in control of the occupied region and reported by the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.
On Thursday, Russia threatened to shut down the plant, warning that there was a risk of a human-made disaster due to alleged continued shelling by Ukraine.
NBC News has not verified the claims of either side.