Russian-backed authorities in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia oblast have ordered the evacuation from areas that are threatened with shelling, including Enerhodar, the town where the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) is located.
Yevgeny Balitsky, the Russian-installed acting governor of Zaporizhzhia, said about 70,000 people in 18 towns and villages would be relocated due to intensified shelling. The evacuation order comes as Ukraine is expected to launch a counteroffensive that is expected to be focused on Russian-controlled territory in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.
“We believe that a counteroffensive will begin very soon. We have information from the line of contact, up to 150 kilometers deep, and we realize that it can happen in the coming days, if not hours,” Balitsky said on Friday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has a presence at the ZNPP and said its experts were aware of the evacuation of Enerhodar. The agency also warned the situation at the ZNPP is becoming “increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous.”
“I’m extremely concerned about the very real nuclear safety and security risks facing the plant,” said IAEA Director General Rafel Grossi. The ZNPP has been controlled by Russia since March 2022 and has been the site of frequent shelling throughout the war, raising fears of a potential nuclear disaster.
According to The Times of London, the Ukrainian forces attempted a cross-river raid to recapture the ZNPP, which is on the east bank of the Dnieper River, that was thwarted by Russia. The US backed the attack by providing targeting data for the HIMARS rocket systems.