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Nuclear plant chief held by Russia – Ukraine

Russian troops have detained the director of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Ukraine’s state nuclear regulator Enerhoatom says.

It says Ihor Murashov was held as his car was on its way from the facility to the nearby town of Enerhodar at about 16:00 local time (13:00 GMT) on Friday.

He was then blindfolded and is believed to have been taken to a prison facility in Enerhodar, Enerhoatom’s president told the BBC.

Russia has not commented.

Moscow seized Europe’s biggest nuclear plant in March, and kept on its Ukrainian staff.

Both Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of repeatedly shelling the plant, amid global concerns that this could lead to a major radiation incident in Europe.

In a statement published on Saturday, Enerhoatom president Petro Kotin said that Mr Murashov “bears main and exclusive responsibility for the nuclear and radiation safety” of the nuclear plant.

He said Friday’s detention “jeopardises the safety of operation of Ukraine and Europe’s largest nuclear power plant”.

In addition, he told the BBC the detention happened as Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of four regions of Ukraine, including Zaporizhzhia.

Mr Kontin said representatives of Russia’s nuclear state company Rosatom had visited the plant “just two days ago”. They said the power plant would be transferred from Ukrainian control to Rosatom’s control in line with the annexation of the region.

Mr Kontin said he believed the move to kidnap Mr Musharov was an attempt to try and get him to accept the transfer of the power plant from Ukraine to Russia.

“They are trying to make him accept the move of [the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant] from Ukraine to Rosatom. But I am sure he is against it. Many times before he refused to accept the Russian world and so on,” Mr Kontin said.

The plant’s president appealed to the International Atomic Energy Agency to demand the immediate release of the plant’s chief, accusing Russia of “nuclear terrorism”.

The six-reactor Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is located near Enerhodar, in the occupied part of Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia region.

Ukraine says Russian troops are using the station as a military base and that employees are in effect held at gunpoint.

Moscow denies the claim.

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the annexation of the Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk regions – a move widely condemned by Ukraine and the West.

Moscow does not fully control any of the four regions in Ukraine’s east and south.

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