Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khosnolin said Russia wants to cut Ukraine off from the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, which is occupied by the Russian military, unless Kyiv pays Moscow for the electricity produced.
This statement joins the statements of other Russian officials in recent weeks who suggest that Russia is preparing for a long-term occupation or even annexation of the regions of southern Ukraine it controls, the Kherson region and much of the Zaporizhia region.
“If the energy system of Ukraine is ready to receive and pay, then (the plant) can work for Ukraine. If (Ukraine) does not accept, then (the power plant) will turn to Russia,” Mr. Khosnolin declared, during a Wednesday exodus at the site of the nuclear facility , according to Russian agencies.
“We have a lot of experience in nuclear power plants and we have companies in Russia that have this experience and there is no doubt that (the company located in Zaporizhia) will continue to work,” he said.
Ukraine’s nuclear energy agency Energoatom confirmed Thursday morning that the plant continues to supply electricity to Ukraine.
In 2021, that is, before the Russian attack on Ukraine that began on February 24, 2022, the plant represented 20% of the annual electricity production of Ukraine and 47% of the production of the Ukrainian nuclear fleet.
In early March, Moscow forces took control of this plant located in the city of Energodar, southern Ukraine, separated by the waters of the Dnieper River from the regional capital of Zaporizhia, which is still under Ukrainian control.
Clashes there in the early days of the conflict raised fears of a possible nuclear disaster in the country, where a reactor exploded in 1986 at Chernobyl.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khosnolin further emphasized that Russia is here to stay, hinting that annexation was an option.
I see the future of this region as working within the friendly Russian family. That’s why I came to help integrate as much as possible.”
Russian officials and pro-Russian authorities set up by Moscow also said last week that Ukraine’s Kherson region would likely be annexed by Russia.
Russia’s control of the coast of the Sea of Azov (Kherson, Zaporizhia and Donetsk), including the port of Mariupol, provides a land bridge linking Russian territory with Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.
Launching his offensive, Vladimir Putin assured that Russia would not occupy Ukrainian territory.