Russia's Nuclear Plant Town Targeted in New Drone Attack

Russia’s Nuclear Plant Town Targeted in New Drone Attack

Ukraine launched a series of drones across the border into Russia early on Tuesday, with one drone shot down close to one of Moscow’s nuclear power plants, according to Russian state media and a local official, the latest in the series of nuclear worries that have plagued the conflict in Ukraine.

Russia’s Defense Ministry reported several unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) strikes from Ukraine on Tuesday. The Kremlin said its air defenses had shot down one drone over the Belgorod region, destroyed four UAVs over the Kursk region and another two over the Oryol region, all close to the border with northeastern Ukraine.

Russia then said it had stopped another two UAVs over Kursk and Oryol, followed shortly after by another drone over the Bryansk region.

One of the Ukrainian drones was downed over the Kurchatov area of the Kursk region, Roman Starovoit, the governor of the Kursk region, said in a post to Telegram. It was destroyed close to the site of a nuclear power station, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

Newsweek has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry and Ukrainian military for comment via email.

A security person standing in front of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Enerhodar, Ukraine, on September 11, 2022. Ukraine launched a series of drones across the border into Russia, with one shot down close to one of Moscow’s nuclear power plants, according to Russian state media.
Stringer/AFP via Getty Images
Russia reports near-daily drone attacks on its border regions that it blames on Ukraine. Kyiv rarely admits to carrying out strikes in Russian territory, as it can be a contentious subject for its Western backers.

Russia has previously reported Ukrainian drone activity close to the nuclear power plant near the town of Kurchatov. In September 2023, Starovoit said there was no damage to the facility after a drone hit a building in the town.

Russia’s state nuclear plant operator, Rosenergoatom, said three Ukrainian drones targeted the nuclear power plant in late October 2023, but they were intercepted without affecting the plant.

Throughout the full-scale war, now approaching the two-year mark, Moscow and Kyiv have traded accusations about endangering nuclear power facilities.

Since the early days of the war, Russia has controlled the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, with military activity close to the facility prompting global fears of a nuclear disaster. The safety of the plant is closely monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a United Nations watchdog.

The Zaporizhzhia plant is Europe’s largest nuclear power station, housing six reactors. Several incidents in the past 23 months have heightened fears for the facility, including when it disconnected several times from the main power line in August 2022.

On January 3, 2024, the IAEA said there had been eight incidents of a “complete loss of off-site power” at the plant since August 2022. “Frequent power cuts have remained a source of serious concern for safety and security,” as electricity is crucial for cooling down reactors and other key processes even when the reactors are not functional, the watchdog said.

Ukraine was also the site of one of the world’s most infamous nuclear disasters when an explosion triggered a fire and the release of huge amounts of radioactive material from the Chernobyl site in 1986. At the time, Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union.

In a separate statement on early on Wednesday, Moscow’s Defense Ministry said it had destroyed another Ukrainian UAV over the country’s Saratov region in southwest.

ASTRA, a Telegram channel run by independent Russian journalists, said two drones were used to attack the Engels-2 military airfield, home to a number of Moscow’s strategic bombers used to attack Ukraine.

Russia said in December 2022 that three people were killed at the Engels-2 base, which is located in the Saratov region, after a Ukrainian drone attack.

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