President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian state to assume complete control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on October 5, one of his first efforts to exert sovereignty over portions of Ukraine that Russia has recognized as its own, a decision that Kyiv quickly rejected.
Credit: Alexander Ermochenko; REUTERS
Putin made the announcement after signing decrees that Moscow believes would incorporate four territories that it only partially controls into Russia. Putin stated that after signing the proclamation designating the nuclear power plant as "federal property," Russia would stabilize the situation in the four regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia.
"The Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility is now on Russian Federation territory and, as such, should be run under the supervision of our appropriate authorities," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin told RIA.
Ukrainian engineers continue to operate the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, which has been controlled by the Russian military since March.
The Russian nuclear power operator, Rosenergoatom, said it would analyze the damage to the plant's infrastructure and transfer the Ukrainian personnel to a new Russian-owned entity.
"The new operational structure is intended to safeguard the safe running of the nuclear power plant as well as the professional activities of current plant workers," the company stated in a statement.
Enerhoatom, Ukraine's state nuclear energy corporation, called Putin's edict and other Russian documents about the Zaporizhzhia atomic power station "worthless, stupid, and incompetent."
"The [nuclear power plant] Zaporizhzhia will continue to operate in Ukraine, in compliance with Ukrainian regulations, in the Ukrainian energy system, in Enerhoatom," the regulator stated.
Moscow has long stated that it intends to transfer the plant from Ukraine's electrical system to Russia's. The power station is on the Russian side of a reservoir, with Ukrainian soldiers on the opposite side. Fighting near the facility has increased the risk of a nuclear disaster, according to both parties and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Rafael Grossi, the chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said on October 5 that he was traveling by train to Kyiv and would visit Moscow later that week. According to Grossi, negotiations on a safe zone surrounding the facility are more critical than ever.
Putin's signing of the orders to unlawfully annex the four territories, which Moscow only partially controls, completes a takeover that violates international law. Russia's claimed regions account for around 18% of Ukraine's total land area.
Ukrainian forces continued to advance into several of the four areas, casting doubt on Moscow's ability to reclaim those territories even as the Kremlin threatened to retake them.
"The given areas will be reclaimed," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said after Putin signed the legislation absorbing them into Russia.