Russia accused of kidnapping head of Ukraine nuclear plant


Ukraine’s nuclear power provider on Saturday accused Russian forces of kidnapping the head of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) and holding him in an undisclosed location.

According to Energoatom, the power station’s director-general, Ihor Murashov, was stopped by Russian forces around 4 p.m. Friday while in his car before he was then blindfolded and detained. 

His whereabouts remain unknown. 

TOPSHOT - A Russian serviceman patrols the territory of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar on May 1, 2022. - The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in southeastern Ukraine is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and among the 10 largest in the world. 

TOPSHOT – A Russian serviceman patrols the territory of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar on May 1, 2022. – The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in southeastern Ukraine is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and among the 10 largest in the world. 
((Photo by Andrey BORODULIN / AFP) (Photo by ANDREY BORODULIN/AFP via Getty Images))

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The apparent kidnapping occurred just one hour after Russian President Vladimir Putin laid claim to the region of Zaporizhzhia, along with Donetsk, Luhansk and Kherson, and in his view officially united the regions under the Russian Federation. 

Kyiv and Western nations have condemned the move and said they will not recognize Russia’s self-declared claim over Ukraine’s territory. 

Moscow has not acknowledged the kidnapping of the ZNPP official but the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said its staff at the plant had been made aware of the capture and said it had contacted Russian authorities.

IAEA staff have resided at the nuclear power station since early September after traveling to the plant to evaluate the threat level and damage caused to the ZNPP following several missile strikes.

Officials have long warned that fighting near the ZNPP, Europe’s largest nuclear power station, needs to immediately cease amid concerns that the integrity of the plant could be compromised and spark a radiation disaster. 

Russia has occupied the plant since early March, but Ukrainian technicians have continued operating the power station.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director Rafael Grossi, the mission leader, center, and IAEA members inspect the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Enerhodar, southeastern Ukraine Thursday Sept. 1, 2022. 

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director Rafael Grossi, the mission leader, center, and IAEA members inspect the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Enerhodar, southeastern Ukraine Thursday Sept. 1, 2022. 
(Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

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The plant’s last two operating reactors were shut down in September as a precautionary measure amid ongoing shelling. 

It is unclear what Russia’s next plan is for the power plant as it attempts to lay claim the Zaporizhzhia region. 

Energoatom President Petro Kotin demanded the director general be immediately release and said, “His detention…jeopardizes the safety of Ukraine and Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.”

Ukrainian Emergency Ministry rescuers attend an exercise in the city of Zaporizhzhia on August 17, 2022, in case of a possible nuclear incident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant located near the city.

Ukrainian Emergency Ministry rescuers attend an exercise in the city of Zaporizhzhia on August 17, 2022, in case of a possible nuclear incident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant located near the city.
(DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images)

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said his forces will not stop fighting Russia’s occupation until all of Ukraine has been restored and Russian troops have withdrawn.

Ukraine has begun making advances in its north-eastern regions as its troops push forward into Donetsk and Luhansk. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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