He wants to control Ukraine’s largest energy source, while his troops are already only 30 kilometers from the three reactors located in the south of the invaded country.
In the images that come from the Ukraine there is almost always a kind of haze. That diffuse light focuses the scenes of the Russian invasion. Skeletons of bombed buildings. The big sad eyes of the children… and also of the parents, who barely a week after the start of the conflict already speak of what they did before the war as if it were from another time. And under that fog of pain and devastation plans the nuclear threat, brandished by Vladimir Putin to scare the world.
His troops already have in their power the Zaporizhia plant, the largest in Europe with its six reactors, and are advancing in the direction of the Yuzhnoukrainsk plant, in the city of Mykolaiv. They are only 30 kilometers away, warned Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations. Russia wants to conquer the four atomic production centers in the Ukraine. Thus he would have the greatest source of energy in his hands. I could turn off the light. From mist to darkness.
There are words that intimidate. ‘Nuclear’ is one of them. The Russian attack on Zaporizhia shocked the world. Ukraine is the country of Chernobyl, the atomic facility that caused thousands of deaths with its explosion and radioactive release in 1986. Now it has four plants, the one in Zaporizhia, in Russian hands, plus the four reactors in Rivne, the two in Khmeltniski and the three located in the south of the territory, where the Russian soldiers go.
“The imminent danger continues,” warned Thomas-Greenfield. “Last night (on Friday) we narrowly avoided the disaster,” he warned after the bombing in a non-nuclear enclosure of the Zaporizhia plant. “We need to hear him (Putin) say that this will not happen again. We ask you to remove your troops and weapons from him. May he respect the borders of Ukraine, his people and the Magna Carta of the United Nations. We ask that you respect your own troops so that you don’t send them into an unjust war, or a suicide mission against a nuclear power plant,” the US ambassador continued.
“We Ask Putin To Respect His Own Troops, Not To Send Them On A Suicide Mission Against A Nuclear Power Plant”
Linda Thomas Greenfield
In that same trench, Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister, called a meeting of the United Nations Security Council after talking, via telematics, with the president of Ukraine, Volodimir Zelenski. Johnson considers that the “reckless” actions of Vladimir Putin could constitute a threat to the security of “all of Europe.” The British prime minister assures that he will do everything possible to “ensure that the situation does not deteriorate further.”
A plant is not a bomb
The fear of a nuclear incident, which would raise the conflict to a horrifying dimension, is stirred by Putin. It has raised tension to a point not known since the Missile Crisis of 1962. “The Russians are using nuclear energy to scare us, to divide us,” Bruno Tertrais, deputy director of the French Strategic Research Foundation, told ‘Le Monde’. (FRS) and specialist in deterrence issues.
He does not believe that Russia will resort to nuclear weapons. In his opinion, she doesn’t need it. The conventional arsenal is enough. The Russian Army is much better prepared today than it was a couple of decades ago. “His successes in Crimea in 2014 and in Syria since 2015 have consolidated his confidence,” defends another FRS member, Benjamin Hautecouverture.
Nuclear energy experts have suddenly become highly sought after characters. Fear asks questions. And they agree in distinguishing between the danger posed by a nuclear power plant and an atomic bomb. In both cases, the fuel is uranium or plutonium, but in the case of the power plants it is 5% enriched, compared to 90% in the atomic weapon. Nuclear facilities are also designed to withstand the impact of an airplane. Rather than causing a radioactive cloud that could also affect its territory, Russia wants to dominate Ukraine’s great energy source. The power supply has already suffered cuts. The country has been darker and colder for a week.
War distorts the perception of time. Ukrainian citizens suddenly feel in another world, in another time. There are a million refugees. Putin does not loosen. Ukraine needs nuclear power, especially after Russia-backed separatist groups seized control of Donbas in 2014, the coal-mining region that generated 40% of the country’s power.
Since then the Ukrainian authorities have turned even more towards the nuclear faucet, from which they obtain half of their energy production. Putin already has the large plant in Zaporizhia and is one step away from the three reactors located in the south. If he completes his objective, the Russian president will get his hands on the light switch. And the fog will continue to spread over Ukraine while the rest of the world trembles at one word, ‘nuclear’.