Ukraine: Putin ‘could use Zaporizhzhia as a weapon’ says expert
There are “no limits” to what Vladimir Putin will do to cling to power and turn the tide of his war after United Nations (UN) inspectors found “anti-personnel mines” at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, according to the UK’s leading bio-weapons expert.
The UN nuclear inspection team – the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – claimed to have discovered the explosives “in a buffer zone between the site’s internal and external perimeter barriers”. The authority noted that it had also found mines during previous checks of the facility – the largest in the Europe and the second largest in the world.
Director General of the IAEA Rafael Mariano Grossi said on the watchdog’s website: “As I have reported earlier, the IAEA has been aware of the previous placement of mines outside the site perimeter and also at particular places inside.
“Our team has raised this specific finding with the plant and they have been told that it is a military decision, and in an area controlled by military.”
He continued: “But having such explosives on the site is inconsistent with the IAEA safety standards and nuclear security guidance and creates additional psychological pressure on plant staff – even if the IAEA’s initial assessment based on its own observations and the plant’s clarifications is that any detonation of these mines should not affect the site’s nuclear safety and security systems.”
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Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, Britain’s pre-eminent chemical weapons specialist, issued a grim warning following the IAEA discovery. He told Express.co.uk that “there is no reason to have anti-personnel mines with Zaporizhzhia unless you intend to fight there”.
The former British Army officer previously told this website that if the Kremlin ordered an explosion inside the reactors at the nuclear plant then, depending on weather conditions, “contamination would go westwards predominantly [towards] western Ukraine, western Zaporizhzhia, probably up into Poland and into Germany, and could go beyond”.
Following the IAEA discovery at the plant on July 23, Mr de Bretton-Gordon said: “What the IAEA have not been able to do is get inside the reactors to inspect them. So I suppose it begs the question if the Russians are prepared to put mines on the outside, what is on the inside?
“The fundamental thing is that this is the second largest nuclear power station in the world, there should be no mines within 20-30 miles of it.
The veteran, who advised the Government following the Salisbury Novichok poisoning, added: “But the realisation that there are explosives in the plant and now confirmed by the IAEA – it’s huge.
“Why are the Russians so determined to hang on to this place? The only advantage it would have would be to use it as some sort of weapon, be it an area they know Ukrainians can’t go through or other means.”
He noted that residents living in the vicinity of the plant are stricken with fear about the possibility of a disaster at the facility.
“Psychologically what they’re doing is creating fear. I was speaking to people in the town just to the east of Zaporizhzhia just last week and they are absolutely terrified.
“So this [discovery] just doesn’t help. This really just ups the anti a little bit further.”
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Emphasising the peril that large swathes of Europe is in, Mr de Bretton-Gordon made no bones about the possibility of Russian engineering a catastrophe.
He said: “There seems to be no limit to what Putin and his people are prepared to do.”
“If you’re prepared to blow up a dam to create the greatest environmental disaster Europe’s seen since Chernobyl, it strikes me that blowing up a nuclear power station is of the same order.”
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