Chernobyl disaster 2.0: the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail

After the complete failure of Russia’s blitzkrieg assault on Ukraine, the Kremlin’s forces have resorted to a scorched earth policy in violation of the rules of war. They are now deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure and residential facilities, but more alarmingly still are risking the outbreak of another European nuclear catastrophe.  

Realising that their ground operation was failing, the Kremlin has resorted to blackmail and false-flag operations – two of its favourite tactics – only this time with an atomic twist. Indeed, Moscow hardly needs to threaten to use its arsenal of nuclear weapons when it can present the destruction of nuclear reactors as terrorist attacks by “Ukrainian nationalists”. The preparation of the public audience has already begun, and this false thesis can be voiced at the upcoming negotiations in the International Atomic Energy Agency-Russia-Ukraine format. 

This suits the Kremlin’s “peacekeeping” narrative, with Moscow claiming its war was unleashed pre-emptively to protect the unrecognized republics of the DPR and LPR. Moscow has added to its guardian image by trying to impose the idea of ​​a nuclear threat from Ukraine on Russia and its satellites. It ludicrously claims that Kyiv is preparing the creation of a nuclear bomb, even though experts acknowledge that Ukraine has neither the intention nor technical ability to create a nuclear weapon. However, this has not stopped Russian propaganda from continuing to promote the notion of a “nuclear threat from Ukraine.” 

With these lies and attempts at manipulation, the Russians have justified the seizure of the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plants, as well as their preparations to seize others across the country. At the same time, the Kremlin is claiming that documents on the development of nuclear weapons were stored at the nuclear power plant in Energodar, with the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology being destroyed for the same ‘defensive’ purpose, where the nuclear installation “Source of Neutrons” is located. 

The world should be under no illusion as to just how dangerous Moscow’s actions are, as a host of experts have already stated. “Firing shells in the area of a nuclear power plant violates the fundamental principle that the physical integrity of nuclear facilities must be maintained and kept safe at all times,” IAEA Director-General stated on the 4th of March. 

According to Jon Wolfsthal, a specialist in Nuclear Policy who worked as the special assistant to former US President Barack Obama, the reactors have thick concrete containment domes to protect them from external threats, including those from tanks and artillery. However, he pointed out that fuel rods being kept cooled are more vulnerable to shelling and cause the release of radioactive material. 

For his part, David Fletcher – a professor of the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering who previously worked at UK Atomic Energy – claimed that at least shutting down the reactors would not help if the cooling system failed, while Najmedin Meshkati, a scholar who specialized in the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters, raised a concern about the plant’s power supply. He is convinced it may become critical amid the shelling and bombing. 

The Ukrainian Army and Territorial Defence detachments continue to mount stubborn resistance, inflicting significant damage on the aggressor. The civilian population also demonstrates inspiring high spirits protesting in the captured cities. It makes it more difficult for the Russian occupant to establish control, rendering it highly unsafe for military groups to stay there. But this will be severely hindered and weakened if Moscow’s troops unleash the worst atomic disaster in European history. This constitutes an even greater threat than Russia’s use of banned weapons in the form of cluster and vacuum bombs.  

At this stage, the West is well aware of how it can help Ukraine’s war: and it should be equally aware that Ukraine must win for the sake of future European security. If the deaths of civilians in callous terrorist attacks by Russian forces cannot move Brussels and Washington to act, then perhaps a nuclear threat might.  

At this time, it is not too late – but time is running out.  

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