Ukrainians living close to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) fear that Putin’s army will only allow those with Russian passports to leave the area in the event of an explosion at the site.
Kyiv has been warning for weeks that Moscow is preparing to blow up part of the nuclear plant in an attempt to derail Ukraine’s counteroffensive and sow panic and fear throughout the country.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said in late June that the Russians had rigged the occupied plant with explosives and had plans to set them off.
During a press conferences with Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, he described the threat as “serious”, adding the Russians were “technically ready” for such an act of sabotage.
His warnings were reinforced by Ukraine’s military intelligence, which in a recent report said the Russians continued to push ahead with their intentions to cause a radiation leak.
The agency’s chief, Kyrylo Budanov, alleged that Moscow has approved a plan to blow up the station and has mined four of the six power units, as well as a cooling pond.
Locals living in Enerhodar, where the plant is located, are convinced that only those holding Russian passports will be allowed to leave in the event of an explosion.
Many point to what happened when the Russians destroyed the Kakhovka dam in early June that led to massive flooding, deaths and environmental destruction along the lower Dnipro river.
In areas controlled by Putin’s army, soldiers prevented people from rescuing others and refused to allow anyone without a Russian passport from leaving.
Anna, whose husband used to work at the plant, told the Kyiv Independent she didn’t expect to be allowed to leave the city given that she and her family refused to acquire Russian citizenship.
However, she remains supremely calm about her fate, saying there was no point in worrying about what the future held.
“We know that no one will evacuate us, so what’s the point of worrying?,” she said.
“It would be the end of all of us here.”
She said the only preparation her family had made for a nuclear catastrophe was to stock up on food and water.
“We’ve been under occupation for 16 months and are already so tired of being afraid,” she explained.
“The fact that we have lived near the largest nuclear power plant (in Europe) all our lives somehow gives immunity to fear.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency says it has not found any evidence of explosives during its inspections of the plant.
However, the agency’s inspectors were not granted full access to the site’s facilities.
Yuriy Kostenko, the former Minister of Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety of Ukraine, warned in an interview with MailonLine that an explosion at the Zaporizhzhia NPP would be much more terrifying and massive than Hiroshima.
Liubov Abravitova, Ukraine’s ambassador to South Africa, also warned of the devastating fallout from any potential radiation leak at the plant.
In an opinion piece for the news24.com website, she wrote: “I don’t want to induce irrational fear, but I do want the world to truly grasp the profound implications of a nuclear disaster in Ukraine and the harrowing consequences that reverberate far beyond the immediate blast radius.
“One thing is for sure, Vladimir Putin’s dream of world hunger would definitely be achievable.”