Russia Accused of Kidnapping Head of EU's Largest Nukes Plant

Ihor Murashov, director of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia plant, was said to have been yanked from his car
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 1, 2022 5:30 AM CDT
Russia Accused of Abducting Ukrainian Nukes Plant Chief
Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen celebrating with other officials at the Kremlin during a ceremony to sign the treaties for four regions of Ukraine to join Russia, in Moscow on Friday.   (Grigory Sysoyev, Sputnik, Government Pool Photo via AP)

Ukraine's nuclear power provider said Saturday that Russian forces blindfolded and detained the head of Europe's largest nuclear plant, hours after Moscow illegally annexed a swath of Ukrainian territory in a sharp escalation of the war. The alleged kidnapping comes at a pivotal moment in Russian President Vladimir Putin's war. Facing a Ukrainian counteroffensive, Putin this week heightened threats of nuclear force and used his most aggressive, anti-Western rhetoric to date, per the AP. In a possible attempt to secure Moscow's hold on the newly annexed territory, Russian forces seized the director-general of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Ihor Murashov, around 4pm local time Friday, Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom said.

That was just hours after Putin signed treaties to absorb Moscow-controlled Ukrainian territory into Russia, including the area around the nuclear plant. Energoatom said Russian troops stopped Murashov's car, blindfolded him, and then took him to an undisclosed location. Russia didn't immediately acknowledge seizing the plant director. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which has staff at the plant, said it was aware of the reports of Murashov's capture and had contacted Russian authorities for clarification on what happened. "His detention by [Russia] jeopardizes the safety of Ukraine and Europe's largest nuclear power plant," said Energoatom President Petro Kotin, demanding the director's immediate release.

The power plant repeatedly has been caught in the crossfire of the war in Ukraine. Ukrainian technicians continued running it after Russian troops seized the power station, and its last reactor was shut down in September as a precautionary measure amid ongoing shelling nearby. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his military have vowed to keep fighting to liberate the annexed regions and other Russian-occupied areas. Ukrainian officials said Saturday that their forces had surrounded thousands of Russian forces holding the strategic eastern city of Lyman, which is located in one of the four incorporated areas. Zelensky formally applied Friday for Ukraine to join NATO, increasing pressure on Western allies to help defend the country.

(Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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