Russia is removing artillery from an occupied nuclear power plant, making Ukraine reluctant to shoot back

The six nuclear reactors of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant are shown, as seen from Nikopol, Ukraine, on April 27. Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

  • According to The New York Times, Russia is firing artillery from a nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

  • When Russia occupied the Zaporizhzhya plant, Russia resented and has now militarized it.

  • Experts say the risk of devastation is low – but Ukraine still feels unable to hit the nuclear site.

As The New York Times reports, Russian troops are firing artillery from a nearby nuclear power plant at Ukrainian targets, breaking yet another norm of war.

Ukrainian officials told The Times that Russia selected the Zaporizhzhya site because it is too difficult for Ukrainian troops to retaliate.

An annotated map shows the location of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station on the border of Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine. UK Ministry of Defense / Insider

Since mid-July, according to the Times, Russian forces have been firing from the plant in Nikopol, a Ukrainian town across the river.

The capture of a Ukrainian nuclear power plant in March sparked international outrage, as fighting led to a fire at the site, raising fears that the integrity of the nuclear reactors might be threatened.

The invasion of Ukraine is the first time nuclear infrastructure has caught fire during a massive conflict.

Ukrainian troops have hesitated to retaliate, fearing their attacks could affect one of Zaporizhia’s six reactors or its stored nuclear waste.

“How can we answer?” Colonel Serhi Shatalov asked The Times. “It’s a nuclear site.”

Ukraine has made some limited efforts to attack the site, including precision strikes with kamikaze drones, According to a tweet by the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

Men are shown clearing debris after shelling in Nikopol, Ukraine, on July 20. Dmitro Smolenko/Ukrainform/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Experts previously told Insider that the risk of a nuclear accident in Zaporizhzhya is very low. But active conflict increases that risk, he said.

Only a direct impact from a powerful weapon would threaten the integrity of the thick defenses for the radioactive core, a former nuclear engineer and exiled mayor of the city that hosts the plant told The Times.

But the conflict could damage stored nuclear waste and lead to contamination in the surrounding area, experts previously told Insider.

Insider previously reported that it is also putting pressure on normal security procedures for the site, leaving employees under stress and unable to perform at their best. According to The Times, the workers were harshly interrogated and tortured with electric shocks.

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is the largest such plant in Europe, with six nuclear reactors. There are three other active nuclear power plants in the country.

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