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UK Defense Ministry: Russia sets up fighting positions at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant
By March 2023, Russian troops had established sandbag fighting positions on the roofs of several reactor buildings at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported on April 27.
This is the first indication of the reactor buildings to be directly integrated into tactical defense planning since Russia occupied the plant over a year ago, the ministry wrote in its latest intelligence update.
Russia's move likely confirms the anxiety among its military leadership before Ukraine's upcoming counteroffensive, reads the report.
The construction "highly likely" increases the risks of harming the nuclear plant's safety systems if the fighting occurs around the facility, according to the ministry. "However, direct catastrophic damage to the reactors is unlikely under most plausible scenarios involving infantry weapons because the structures are very heavily reinforced."
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on April 21 that its experts present at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant had heard shelling almost every day over the previous week.
Since Russian forces occupied the plant in March 2022, they have used it as a military base from which they launch attacks at Ukrainian-controlled territory across the Dnipro River, in particular, Nikopol.
The plant, Europe's largest, has been fully disconnected from the Ukrainian power grid several times due to regular Russian attacks on the country's energy infrastructure. The power plant is also currently operating with only a quarter of its regular staff, causing concerns about maintenance.