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A characteristic feature of the second phase of the war in Ukraine was the active use of artillery by the parties to the conflict. After Ukraine replenished its stockpile of long-range weapons, the fighting took the form of an artillery duel, with one side firing at the other side firing back at the enemy’s firing position. This principle works on the entire front line, but there is an exception – this is the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, which Russian troops occupied at the beginning of the war and on which the Armed Forces of Ukraine cannot freely retaliate.
In early March, Russian troops occupied the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe. Since mid-July, they began to fire at Nikopol and other targets under the cover of this nuclear facility, writes The New York Times. Ukrainian officials attribute Russia’s changed tactics to the appearance on the battlefield of the American HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems, the newspaper notes.
Armed Forces Colonel Serhiy Shatalov, whose unit is fighting on the opposite bank of the Dnieper, said that after several weeks of HIMARS strikes, Russian artillery was largely silent, except for units located at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant. “How can we answer? This is a nuclear facility,” he added.
The New York Times writes, referring to the words of the mayor of the city of Energodar Dmitry Orlov, that in July the Russian military placed their Grad MLRS between the reactor buildings to protect them from retaliatory strikes, as well as placed other military equipment in the engine room of the first power unit.
At the same time, military expert Oleg Zhdanov assuresthat fighting near the station does not pose a threat to the nuclear facility itself. “So far, there is no threat to the nuclear power plant: we do not shoot at Russian troops hiding on the territory of the nuclear power plant, and Russian troops do not fire from the territory of the nuclear power plant,” he said.
At the same time, the NYT notes that on July 22, the APU inflicted a kamikaze drone hit a tent city about 150 meters from the reactor.
The fighting near the nuclear power plant poses a great threat to Ukraine and can lead to consequences comparable to the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986. Dmitry Orlov said that there are two possible scenarios that could lead to a serious accident and the spread of radiation: a direct hit of a projectile directly into the reactor, as well as a hit in highly radioactive spent fuel stored in concrete containers.