Ukraine: Bomb hits residential area of Orikhov, Zaporizhzhia Oblast
Engineers at Ukraine’s nuclear power plant have spoken out about Russia’s chaotic takeover.
In the first two weeks of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin’s forces took control of Zaporizhzhia power plant.
Still in Moscow’s grip a year and a half later, the plant has been a constant source of fear, with power failures and reports of explosives placed on the building.
But speaking anonymously, sources who worked at the plant have shared how Russia tried to barrage the plant in the early days of the invasion.
An engineer claims two Russian tanks barraged the station’s walls, while staffers yelled into a bullhorn for hours to “stop bombing a nuclear site”.
READ MORE Putin ally threatens ‘global nuclear fire’ if Ukraine seizes ‘Russian land’
Speaking to Al-Jazeera, sources who have since fled Enerhodar said the takeover luckily did not see reactors and spent fuel storage hit.
One engineer said that Russian “experts consulted these a**holes on where they can shoot and where they can’t”.
One also said: “We couldn’t believe it. We completely denied it, one can’t just seize a nuclear station, it’s the safest place on the planet.”
They feared any attack from Moscow would lead to a repeat of the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, which saw a tsunami devastate a nuclear plant and release radiation into the atmosphere.
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After Russia occupied the plant, technicians who agreed to stay were paid in rubles by Russia as well as their standard hryvnia salary from Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom for a brief period.
Because of safety concerns, all of the station’s six reactors have been shut down amid the war.
Now, some 3,500 staffers are understood to have signed lucrative contracts with the Russian state nuclear company Rosatom as a result of the occupation, and seek to synchronise the plant with Russia’s power grid.
However, sources told Al-Jazeera that some workers disappeared and are feared dead, and hundreds spent months in cells while working at the plant in shifts.
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It follows Daily Express US revealing Ukrainians working at the plant were “tortured” by occupiers.
Former ZNPP worker Oleksii Melnychuk described what Ukrainian workers living under Russian occupation had to endure to keep the plant safe.
“All the time that the Russians were firing at the nuclear power station, the station’s facility-wide communication staff repeated: ‘Don’t shoot at the nuclear facility, it can lead to serious grave consequences, to a radiation accident’. But the occupiers did not care about conventions and treaties,” he said of the powerplant’s takeover.
Melnychuk then added: “The station staff was sent to the so-called basements, where the occupiers used torture – electric shock.
“[We were] forced to go to work due to the fact that it is necessary to control the nuclear reaction. The workers are constantly under stress and in a difficult moral state.”
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