Russia uses Europe’s biggest nuclear plant as base to attack Ukrainian troops

In Nikopol, a rural town in southern UkraineUkrainian forces face a new – and complicated – obstacle as they prepare for a major counteroffensive: a nuclear power plant that the Russian army has turned into a fort.

Nikopol, controlled by the Ukrainians, is located on the west bank of the Dnipro River. On the opposite bank is a gigantic nuclear plant, the biggest in Europe, which the Russian army captured in March. The Russians have been shooting from behind the Zaporizhzhia atomic power plant since mid-July, Ukraine’s military said, launching rockets across the river at Nikopol and other targets.

Continues after advertising

It’s an unopposed shooting position. Ukraine cannot fire artillery bursts in response using advanced US-supplied rocket systems, which have silenced Russian weapons elsewhere on the front line. An attack against this position would risk hitting one of the six pressurized water atomic reactors or some highly radioactive waste dump. And the Russia know this. “They are hiding there so they can’t be hit,” said Nikopol Mayor Oleksandr Sayuk. “Using such a facility as a shield is dangerous.”

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is seen from the bank of the Dnipro River in the city of Nikopol.  Russians occupied the site and launched offensives against Ukraine
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is seen from the bank of the Dnipro River in the city of Nikopol. Russians occupied the site and launched offensives against Ukraine Photograph: Dmytro Smolienko/Reuters

Nikopol residents have been fleeing the city both out of fear of bombing and a possible radioactive leak. And those who remain there feel powerless.

Attacks from the plant complicate Ukraine’s plans in the south, which has become the focus of the war as Russian advances in the east slow. For more than two months, the Ukrainian Army has been outlining the intention of counterattacking on the west bank of the Dnipro River, with the aim of liberating the city of Kherson.

Using a long-range rocket launch system known as Himars, Ukraine has been destroying Russian positions and cutting off supply lines. Rocket attacks in July destroyed a highway and bridges crucial for the Russians to be able to resupply their forces on the west bank, south of Nikopol.

Amid preparations for the counterattack, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant poses an obstacle. Russian forces have occupied the atomic plant since March 4, but started using it as an artillery base only a few weeks ago, Ukrainian officials say, around the same time that the Himars appeared on the battlefield.

Protected from counterfire, the Russians are threatening Ukrainian troops advancing towards the Nova Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro River, one of the last water crossing points available for Russian forces to resupply.

It is a problem that Ukraine will have to resolve as it mobilizes troops and equipment for the counteroffensive in the region. Ukraine’s counterattack options in Nikopol are limited. One tactic that Ukrainian forces have tried is to execute precise strikes, which avoid the risk of damaging the reactors.

Fighting near the nuclear plant has renewed concerns that the war will lead to a leak of radiation in a country rife with dangerous atomic facilities, including the Chernobyl plant, which Russia once occupied in March but later abandoned.

Ukraine resumed grain exports yesterday and a ship loaded with corn set sail from the port of Odessa, the first since the start of the Russian invasion, following the agreement to alleviate the world food crisis.

According to the Ukrainian Minister of Infrastructure, Oleksandr Kubrakov, the Sierra Leone-flagged ship transports a load of 26,000 tons of corn to the Port of Tripoli, in Lebanon. Russia and Ukraine are major agricultural powers and are responsible for supplying a large part of the world market for wheat, corn and sunflower oil. Analysts estimate that up to 25 million tonnes of grain are blocked in Ukrainian ports. / TRANSLATION BY AUGUSTO CALIL

About Abhishek Pratap

Food maven. Unapologetic travel fanatic. MCU's fan. Infuriatingly humble creator. Award-winning pop culture ninja.

Check Also

Brad Pitt pays BRL 106.1 million to victims of Hurricane Katrina

Brad Pitt, 58, and his Make It Right Foundation have reached a settlement after being …