MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia has hinted it is seeking to cut Ukraine off from Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant unless kyiv pays Moscow for the electricity.
The Zaporizhzhia plant was captured by Russian troops following President Vladimir Putin’s special military operation in Ukraine launched on February 24.
“If the energy system of Ukraine is ready to pay, then (the center) will work for Ukraine. If not, then (the plant) will work for Russia,” said Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin during a trip to the region on Wednesday (May 18th), Russian news agencies reported.
His remarks came after Russian officials said Moscow was planning to stay in the territories it controls in southern Ukraine, as the Kherson region and large parts of Zaporizhzhia.
“We have a lot of experience working with nuclear power plants, we have companies in Russia that have that experience,” Khusnullin said.
He said there was “no doubt” that the Zaporizhzhia plant will remain operational. Ukraine’s Energoatom nuclear agency said on Thursday that the plant continued to feed into the national power grid.
The Russians “do not have the technical capability to supply energy from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to Russia or Crimea,” Energoatom spokesman Leonid Oliynyk told AFP.
“It takes time and money… And in a month or two we will have everything under Ukrainian control again,” he added.
Mr Oliynyk said Russia does not have the capacity to cut Ukraine’s electricity supply because “Ukraine controls all relevant equipment”.
In 2021, before the outbreak of the conflict, the center represented a fifth of the annual electricity production in Ukraine and almost half of the electricity produced in the country’s nuclear power plants.
In early March, Russian soldiers took control of the plant in the town of Enerhodar, separated by the Dnipro river from the regional capital Zaporizhzhia which is still under the control of kyiv.
Clashes erupted in the center in the early days of the conflict, raising fears of a possible nuclear disaster in a country where a nuclear reactor exploded at the Chernobyl plant in 1986.
Mr Khusnullin further hinted that Russia is here to stay.
“I see the future of this region as working within the friendly Russian family. That’s why I came here, to help with integration as much as possible,” he said.