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Nuclear power supplier Ukraine accuses Russia of kidnapping

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The Ukrainian nuclear power supplier on Saturday accused Russia of “kidnapping” the head of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, a facility now occupied by Russian troops and located in a region of Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin has moved to annex illegally.

Russian troops took the director general of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, Ihor Murashov, around 4 p.m. Friday, said Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear company Energoatom. That was just hours after Putin, in a sharp escalation of his war, signed treaties to incorporate Moscow-controlled Ukrainian territory into Russia.

Energoatom said Russian troops stopped Murashov’s car, blindfolded him and then took him to an undisclosed location.

“His detention by (Russia) endangers the security of Ukraine and Europe’s largest nuclear power plant,” said Petro Kotin, president of Energoatom.

Kotin demanded that Russia release Murashov immediately.

Russia did not immediately acknowledge the detention of the factory director. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which has staff at the plant, did not immediately acknowledge Energoatom’s claim of Murashov’s capture.

Russian forces captured Ihor Murashov hours after Vladimir Putin signed treaties to incorporate Moscow-controlled Ukrainian territory into Russia.

The Zaporizhzhya plant has been repeatedly caught in the crossfire of the war in Ukraine. Ukrainian technicians continued to run it after Russian forces captured the power station. The factory’s last reactor was shut down in September due to continued shelling near the facility.

On Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the war in Ukraine was over “a crucial moment.” He called Putin’s decision to take over more territory — Russia now claims sovereignty over 15 percent of Ukraine — “the largest attempted annexation of European territory by force since World War II.”

Elsewhere in Ukraine, however, a Ukrainian counter-offensive that embarrassed the Kremlin last month by liberating a region bordering Russia was about to take more ground, military analysts said.

This photo, taken on September 11, 2022, shows a security person standing in front of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant in Enerhodar (Energodar), Zaporizhzhya Oblast, amid ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine.
The last reactor at the Zaporizhzhya plant was shut down in September.
AFP via Getty Images

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said Ukraine is likely to recapture another key Russian-occupied city in the east of the country in the coming days. Ukrainian troops have already surrounded the city of Lyman, about 100 miles southeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

Citing Russian reports, the institute said it appeared that Russian troops were withdrawing from Lyman. That matches online videos that reportedly show some Russian troops falling back when a Ukrainian soldier said they had reached the outskirts of Lyman.

The Ukrainian military has not yet claimed to have captured Lyman, and Russian-backed troops have claimed they are sending more troops into the area.

Ukraine is also making “incremental” gains around Kupiansk and the eastern bank of the Oskil River, which has become a major frontline since the Ukrainian counter-offensive regained control of the Kharkov region in September.

Satellite images show a view of reactors at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in Ukraine on August 29, 2022.
Ukrainian technicians continued to run the Zaporizhzhya plant after Russian troops captured it.

The Ukrainian army claimed on Saturday that Russia would have to deploy cadets before completing their training due to a lack of manpower in the war. Putin last week ordered a massive mobilization of Russian army reservists to replenish his forces in Ukraine, and thousands men have fled the country to avoid the call.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Army said cadets from the Tyumen Military School and from the Ryazan Airborne School would be sent to participate in the Russian mobilization. It did not provide details on how it collected the information, although Kiev intercepted electronic cellphones belonging to Russian soldiers during the conflict.

In a daily intelligence briefing on Friday, the British Ministry of Defense pointed to an attack in the city of Zaporizhzhya that killed 30 people and injured 88 others.

The British army said the Russians “almost certainly” hit a humanitarian convoy with S-300 anti-aircraft missiles there. Russia is increasingly using anti-aircraft missiles to launch attacks on the ground, likely due to a lack of ammunition, the British said on Saturday.

“Russia’s stock of such missiles is most likely limited and is a valuable resource designed to shoot down modern aircraft and incoming missiles, rather than for use against ground targets,” the British said. “Its use in the ground attack role has almost certainly been caused by a general shortage of ammunition, especially longer-range precision missiles.”

The British briefing noted that the attack took place as Putin was preparing to sign the annexation treaties.

“Russia spends strategically valuable military resources in efforts to gain tactical advantage, killing civilians it now claims are its own citizens,” it said.

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