Ukrainian workers at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) have said Russian soldiers occupying the plant are “torturing” them to keep them silent ahead of a visit from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, Ukraine’s nuclear company Energoatom said Saturday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has pushed for weeks to gain access to the site as shelling has threatened the integrity of the plant’s infrastructure and Europe’s nuclear security.
It remains unclear when the IAEA will arrive at the plant, but Director General Rafael Grossi said Friday he hopes the mission will be “very soon” and is attempting to secure a visit to the site “in the next few days.”
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But according to a Telegram post by Energoatom referencing an interview the plant’s workers gave The Telegraph, there is an “atmosphere of fear at the station” as they await the IAEA’s arrival.
Plant workers have reportedly been “arrested” by Russian soldiers and taken to the basement where “conversations” are then held.
Details surrounding what has occurred in the basement have remained nil as those detained have reportedly refused to discuss what happened with their Ukrainian colleagues.
The ZNPP employees suspect that Russia plans to reduce the number of Ukrainian plant workers when possible during the IAEA visit and place “several Russian representatives in each room of the control center.”
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It is also believed that Russian officials are preparing to politicize the visit and plan to “shout loudly that they have been waiting for ‘liberation’ from the regime in Kyiv,” according to a Telegram post by the Ukrainian nuclear agency.
Zaporizhzhia plant workers have suggested Russia will use the visit as an excuse to increase “provocations” on the plant and then blame Ukraine.
Officials have been sounding the alarm that the fallout from damage to Europe’s largest nuclear plant could create a catastrophic problem for not only Ukraine but for the European continent.
Energoatom on Saturday said damage to the ZNPP’s infrastructure has already increased “risks of hydrogen leakage and [the] sputtering of radioactive substances.”
Ukraine’s nuclear agency called for “immediate measures” from the international community “to force Russia to liberate the ZNPP and transfer the power plant to the control of our country for the sake of the security of the whole world.”