Russian President Vladimir Putin has decreed Ukraine’s Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant is a Russian federal asset, absorbing all facilities and employees as the Kremlin’s push in the east loses momentum against Ukrainian forces.
The nuclear facility, the largest in Europe, was captured by Russian forces in March, with Ukrainian employees running day-to-day operations under siege conditions that have the world’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, concerned about the facility’s vulnerability to disaster.
In a decree published Wednesday by Russia’s Tass news agency, Putin ordered the official takeover of Zaporozhye nuclear assets, stating: “The Russian government shall take measures to establish federal ownership of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant and other facilities necessary for its operation.”
According to Tass, Putin also instructed the government to set up the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant federal state unitary company, granting “the joint-stock company the Operator of the Zaporozhye NPP the status of an organization with operations in the area of nuclear energy”.
Ukraine’s state energy agency has responded with a categorical rejection of Putin’s decree, announcing that its state energy agency head was taking over the plant.
“All further decisions regarding the operation of the station will be made directly at the central office of Energoatom,” Ukraine state energy chief Petro Kotin said in a video address posted on Telegram, as reported by Reuters.
“We will continue to work under Ukrainian law, within the Ukrainian energy system, within Energoatom,” Kotin said.
The plant is located in Zaporizhzhia, a region that Putin officially integrated into Russia on Wednesday, following sham referendums. Russia has now annexed four partially Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine.
Moscow formally annexed the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions into the Russian Federation earlier on Wednesday.
Three weeks ago, Ukraine was forced to shut down the nuclear facility amid heavy shelling. At the time of Putin’s decree, Ukraine was considering whether to restart Zaporozhye to ensure the equipment is not undermined.