Staff at the Zaporizhzhia plant have been tortured by the Russians to force them to operate the facility, the head of Ukraine’s nuclear power industry has told Sky News.
Petro Kotin said he hopes independent international inspectors will be able to visit the power plant in the next 10 days.
“There are negotiations with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), with the United Nations on their support of this mission, and I think within 10 days they will be on-site,” Mr Kotin predicted.
Ukraine updates – War has turned into Putin’s ‘nightmare scenario’
“The situation (at the plant) is very bad now and it is worsening all the time. Over the last three weeks, there’s been an increase of shelling at the site.
“The actions from Russia increase the danger to nuclear and radiation safety onsite. Also, the conditions of our staff there are really decreasing.”
Mr Kotin, who used to be the head of the Zaporizhzhia plant itself, claimed his staff have been tortured by Russian forces to force them to stay and operate the plant.
“They captured about 1,100 personnel from the site, and they kept them in their facilities, the captured facilities and police facilities in the (nearby) town of Enerhodar.
“One person was killed, another person was heavily wounded.
“They’re trying to push on them to accept the Russian world. All kinds of psychological pushes on them.”
In recent weeks the site has been heavily shelled; either side blames the other.
Mr Kotin says he has daily conversations with the Ukrainian management at the plant, but most of the time Russians are listening to the calls, so they have to be careful what they say.
“Every day, in the morning, we have contact with plant management, because the plant is operated under our control.
“But this is only related to operation and physical (issues). We have our channels of communication, but we understand they can be controlled by Russians at any time.
“You can just communicate common questions about the operation of the plant, not some special security questions for them.
“From time to time somehow, occasionally, they can find some channels of communication without the Russians hearing what we are talking about.”
Normally, the power plant is connected by four lines to the Ukrainian power grid, but Kotin told us that three of those lines have been destroyed by Russian military activity.
If the final line is damaged, it could lead to major blackouts.
In recent days there have been reports that Russia is planning to divert the power onto its own grid.
Mr Kotin thinks it will be hard for Russia to do: “We are connected to the European system but Russia is desynchronised from our system.
“So before any reconnection to another system, you need to completely shut down from one system then you connect to another system… but we believe they won’t be able to do that because the lines which connect Zaporizhzhia with Crimea are damaged, they are heavily damaged at the moment.
“They’ve tried to do some maintenance but it’s not that easy to do.”
UN chief says Russia must leave Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant
Russia claims Ukrainian assassin killed Putin ally’s daughter
In a call for support from the rest of Europe, Mr Kotin warned that a radiation leak would have far-reaching consequences.
“Everything depends on the weather conditions and the wind. You cannot stop it. Any country which is around Ukraine is under this threat.
“We need to release the plant from any presence of militaries on it.
“If we do that, if we succeed with that, everything will go back to the normal conditions of the Zaporizhzhia power plant and we will be sleeping with the whole world completely safe.”