The Group of Seven (G7) on Saturday condemned Russia’s kidnappings of Ukrainian employees at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), the latest sign of international concern about the embattled facility.
Kyiv in recent weeks has accused Russia — which controls the area in and around the facility while reportedly intimidating Ukrainian staff into maintaining the plant’s operations — of kidnapping the facility’s two top managers as well as stoking fear among Zaporizhzhia’s other employees.
“These actions further impair the nuclear safety and security of the ZNPP by preventing key personnel from executing their indispensable functions,” the G7 Non-Proliferation Directors Group wrote in a statement. “We strongly reject these reckless, cruel and dangerous acts and demand the immediate release of those detained.”
The nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, has become a focal point in Russia’s invasion, with international observers raising alarm bells about the kidnappings and shelling near the plant, warning that a misfire could result in a nuclear disaster.
The G7 — comprised of the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the European Union — also urged Moscow to return full control of the plant to Ukraine, referring to the country as the facility’s “rightful sovereign owner.”
The plant is located along the Dnieper River on the border of one of four Ukrainian regions that Russia annexed earlier this month. The group in its statement condemned the annexations and reiterated the countries’ positions that the land grab is null and void.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has sought to establish a “nuclear safety and security protection zone” around the plant, and the group’s director has personally negotiated with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian officers about such a solution.
“We support IAEA efforts to facilitate the implementation of these pillars and uphold the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, while fully respecting Ukrainian sovereignty,” the G7 non-proliferation group said. “We welcome the Director General’s work to ensure the safety and security of the ZNPP.”
Ukrainian employees at the plant have also detailed how Russian forces shot and beat them to intimidate the staff into running the nuclear plant.
“This is important, but cavemen only understand the language of power,” Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said of the G7 statement on his Telegram channel.
“This war proves that the enemy is retreating under the pressure of the Armed Forces, its economy is collapsing due to systemic sanctions,” Yermak continued. “More determination is needed to collectively finish off the enemy. Nothing else works with terrorists.”
As Ukrainian forces also make progress in reclaiming territory in the south, Kyiv is warning that Russia plans to blow up a major dam in the area.
Beyond the expected flooding from such an explosion, Ukrainian officials have also raised concerns about Zaporizhzhia’s reliance on a reservoir created by the dam for cooling the nuclear plant.