Russia may threaten nuclear plant sabotage to prevent Ukrainian counteroffensive

Russia may be signaling a willingness to sabotage the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant to dissuade Ukrainian forces from conducting a counteroffensive in the area, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) wrote in its latest assessment on June 22.

A deliberate radiological incident at the nuclear plant remains unlikely but not impossible, the ISW added.

The experts point out that a radioactive leak would be difficult to control and could potentially impact Russian forces more than the Ukrainian ones, depending on given conditions. They also note that a radiological terror attack would render many areas in occupied southern Ukraine "uninhabitable and ungovernable," degrading Russia's hold over them.

The ISW reminded that Moscow has repeatedly used nuclear threats related to the Zaporizhzhia plant to constrain Ukraine's military actions and prevent further Western assistance to Kyiv.

The Zaporizhzhia plant, Europe's largest nuclear power station, has been under Russian occupation since March 4, 2022. During regular Russian attacks on the country's energy infrastructure, the plant was entirely disconnected from the Ukrainian power grid several times. Russian forces have used the plant as a military base to launch repeated attacks on Ukrainian-controlled territory.

On June 20, Ukraine's military intelligence reported that Russia was mining the nuclear station, which increased the likelihood of a nuclear incident.

However, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that no new mines were discovered by its chief Rafael Grossi during the recent missions.

President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on June 20 that based on intelligence reports, the Kremlin is considering a terrorist attack at the occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant by deliberately leaking radiation.

Russia strikes transport company in Kherson, kills 2 civilians

Russian forces attacked Kherson on June 23, killing two people and injuring at least four, Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said.

According to the governor, the building of a transport company was hit.

Prokudin first reported around 12 p.m. local time that one 55-year-old employee had been killed and five of his colleagues had been injured and hospitalized. The governor wrote later on Telegram that one of the injured, a 43-year-old man, had died in the hospital.

On the morning of June 23, Prokudin said that, over the past day, seven people had been wounded by Russian attacks. These include two volunteers from Rivne working in Kherson.

Obama claims that "there was no armed invasion of Crimea"

Former US President Barack Obama, whose second term fell on Russia's annexation of Crimea and its invasion of Donbas, explained the lack of active support for Kyiv from the West compared to the events of 2022.

In the interview with CNN, Obama said: "There is a reason why there was not an armed invasion of Crimea. Because Crimea was full of Russian speakers, there was some sympathy for the view that Russia represented its interest. At the time, the Rada [Ukrainian parliament – ed.] still had several Russian sympathizers. The politics inside Ukraine were more complicated."

The US president also stood up for former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been criticized for rapprochement with Russia and not being tough enough.

"Both myself and Merkel, whom I give enormous credit for, had to pull in a lot of other Europeans kicking and screaming to impose the sanctions that we did and to prevent Putin from continuing through the Donbas into the rest of Ukraine," he said.

"Given both where Ukraine was at the time and where the European mindset was, we held the line. And part of what happened was, over time, a sense of Ukrainian identity, separate from Russia, a determination to push back against Russia, and an ability to prepare militarily and civically to resist Russian pressure [appeared – ed.]," Obama added.

He concluded that the West challenged Putin "with the tools we had at the time, given where Ukraine was at the time."

The thesis that there was no military invasion of Crimea was repeatedly refuted by Putin, who recognized the so-called "green men" – military men without insignia – as part of the Russian army.