Russia accused of kidnapping head of Ukraine nuclear plant

Ihor Murashov arrested on his way from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility by Russian troops on Friday and has not been heard from since.

Russian troops detained the director general of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and whisked him away to an unknown location, reigniting fears over the facility’s security.

Ihor Murashov was arrested on his way from the nuclear facility, Europe’s largest, to the town of Enerhodar at 4pm (13:00 GMT) on Friday, Petro Kotin, head of state-owned firm Energoatom, said in a statement on Saturday.

“He was taken out of the car and with his eyes blindfolded he was driven in an unknown direction. His detention by [Russia] jeopardises the safety of Ukraine and Europe’s largest nuclear power plant,” Kotin said, adding there was no immediate word on Murashov’s fate.

Russia did not comment on the arrest.

Kotin said he appealed to the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, to take “all possible immediate actions to urgently free” Murashov.

The IAEA said it was informed by Russian authorities that Murashov was “temporarily detained to answer questions”.

The UN agency added that “in line with its nuclear safety mandate”, it “has been actively seeking clarifications and hopes for a prompt and satisfactory resolution of this matter”.

‘Exclusive responsibility’

The Zaporizhzhia plant has been a focal point of Russia’s seven-month invasion of Ukraine, as Moscow and Kyiv accuse each other of shelling the facility, risking a nuclear disaster.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for the area around the plant, which is still staffed by Ukrainians, to be demilitarised.

Kotin called on Russian forces to “stop immediately the acts of nuclear terrorism towards the management and personnel” of the plant and release Murashov.

Murashov was against handing the Zaporizhzhia plant over to Rosatom – Russia’s state-run nuclear energy giant that operates Russian nuclear plants – but Energoatom’s spokespeople could not confirm this was the reason for his kidnapping.

Murashov had access to security codes, coordinated all the work at the plant, made sure protocols were being followed and reported to Kyiv, according to Energoatom’s spokespeople. Ukrainian authorities appointed him to run the plant several days before Russian troops rolled into Ukraine.

The Zaporizhzhia facility is a strategic trophy for Russia and has triggered worldwide concern as the only nuclear plant caught up in modern warfare. Active fighting nearby means it is unlikely to start producing electricity again soon even if Russia installs its own management.

It is like a town unto itself with some 11,000 workers before the war. While many have fled amid the fighting, others have stayed to ensure the safety of its radioactive material and structures.

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