Fears that Russia is using Europe’s largest nuclear power plant as a weapon reached a new level of alarm on Friday.
Energoatom, the state company that owns the plant, announced on Telegram that a fire cut off a transmission line connecting the plant to Ukraine’s power grid — a frightening first in the plant’s history. It forced the coolers for the nuclear reactor to use backup power. Had those backups failed, the reactors could overheated within hours.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said "If the diesel generator had not been turned on, if the automation and our station staff had not worked after the blackout, we would now be forced to overcome the consequences of a radiation emergency."
That warning was echoed by Britain’s defense intelligence, which warned in a dispatch that Russia “is probably prepared to exploit any Ukrainian military activity” near the plant “for propaganda purposes.”
The British shared satellite images that identify Russian armored personnel carriers and cargo trucks fewer than 200 feet from the nuclear reactors.
Russia shared photos purporting to show craters caused by Ukrainian artillery.
Not so, say the Ukrainians who accuse Putin's forces of militarizing the plant and attempting to create a catastrophe that they will blame on Ukraine.
Nuclear experts are desperate to get reliable information on conditions at the plant and the Ukrainian staff there working at gunpoint.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency told French TV on Thursday that inspectors hope to get permission to visit the plant within days.
"I think now there is general recognition that we need to be there, we need to be there soon," said Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. "Kyiv accepts it. Moscow accepts it. We need to go, and we are going to be there hopefully very, very soon."