Ukrainian settlements evacuate near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant amid shelling


May 7 (UPI) — Settlements in southern Ukraine have begun a mass evacuation over concerns of a potential nuclear incident at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reports that there is a heightened concern as the evacuations indicate fighting may increase near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. In a news release on Saturday, the agency said shelling can be heard from the site.


“We must act now to prevent the threat of a severe nuclear accident and its associated consequences for the population and the environment,” Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the IAEA, said in a statement.

“This major nuclear facility must be protected. I will continue to press for a commitment by all sides to achieve this vital objective, and the IAEA will continue to do everything it can to help ensure nuclear safety and security at the plant.”

Russia took control of much of the region early on in its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Yevgeny Balitsky, who was installed by Russia to head the Zaporizhzhia region, said he made the decision to evacuate children, parents, the elderly, disabled and hospital patients due to shelling by Ukraine, BBC reports. Russia is anticipating a heavy Ukrainian counter-offensive.


Ukrainian officials accused Russia of using the evacuations to deport Ukrainians, CNN reports.

Russia’s evacuation spans 18 settlements, including Enerhodar, the settlement nearest the plant where most of its staff lives. There is still operating staff on site at the power plant, though it has been scaled down throughout the war. The plant is not producing power but staff must continue to monitor its cooling systems to maintain its heavy supply of nuclear material.

In eastern Ukraine, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Russian Wagner mercenary group, reversed course on pulling his troops from Bakhmut on Sunday. Prigozhin said last week he would pull out troops over a lack of munitions. On Sunday, he posted on Telegram that Wagner has been promised as much ammunition as it needs, The New York Times reports.

“We have been promised as much ammunition and armament as we need to keep going,” Prigozhin wrote.

Throughout the past week, Prigozhin had pleaded for more ammunition and said that Russia was withholding support, threatening to withdraw an estimated 10,000 troops.

Ukraine has maintained control of the city in eastern Ukraine with Russia remaining on the outskirts. Ukrainian commander Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky has accused Russia of using scorched earth tactics in an attempt to seize the city.


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Ukrainian demonstrators rally in Kyiv on February 12, 2022 to show unity amid U.S. warnings of an imminent Russian invasion. Photo by Oleksandr Khomenko/UPI | License Photo