‘They are hysterical’ Putin seeking to END the war in Ukraine using ‘nuclear blackmail’

Russian military vehicles seen inside the Zaporizhzhia plant

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The Kremlin has suffered multiple setbacks since it invaded Ukraine on several fronts in February. Since then, Moscow has abandoned its plans for a rapid victory in the country, facing heavy resistance and slow progress.

Nuclear energy expert and former employee at the State Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Ukraine Olga Kosharna told Express.co.uk that Putin may be trying leverage the tense situation at Zapporzhzhia nuclear power plant to force Ukraine’s surrender or to turn NATO away from the conflict.

The comments come as unconfirmed videos appeared to show Russian military vehicles inside Zapporzhzhia. Reports claimed that the vehicles were filled with explosives, Express.co.uk was not able to verify these reports.

Moscow likely feels the pressure even more now that Ukraine is striking inside of the annexed Crimean peninsula, however Putin thinks that his regime would not survive if he loses the war in Ukraine, according to Ms Kosharna.

Ms Kosharna said: “Basically, what is happening is an attempt to force Ukraine into negotiations or surrender, because they’re clearly losing the war.

“With the airfields bombed successfully over the course of several weeks, and just recently, huge damage has been taken…with dozens of units destroyed.

“They are hysterical because they can’t lose. And so what they’re trying to do is use this nuclear asset to force Ukraine to surrender or negotiate.”

Ukraine has remained ambiguous about the several huge explosions which have occurred well behind the frontlines – out of range of any artillery Ukraine is thought to possess.

Ms Kosharna added that Russia likely hoped to spook NATO and the West which then might pressure Ukraine to negotiate and “freeze” the conflict.

She said: “The whole situation the Russians have arranged is nuclear blackmail.

“[A] nuclear threat to force the Western partners to [pressure] Ukraine to start negotiations. The main objective is to freeze the situation as it is to claim the status quo.”

If the conflict is “frozen”, as it was to an extent following the 2014 invasions, Russia would be able to consolidate its gains in Ukraine.

Although the two sides never stopped fighting from 2014, the frontlines were largely static with both sides dug in neither taking much territory.

Putin’s attempt to orchestrate a crisis at the plant – nuclear or not – comes with huge risks.

Ms Kosharna said that something as simple as a loss of power at the nuclear plant could have devastating consequences for the region.

She warned that a nuclear meltdown could affect large portions of the EU, Ukraine and even Russia itself. The radioactive fallout could reach as far as Turkey.

The news comes as the nuclear plant becomes a focal point in the Ukraine war. Russia announced that a “false flag provocation” by Ukraine would occur at the plant on Friday, August 19.

However, Ukraine strongly denied the accusations and accused Moscow of fomenting a reason to shut down the plant and transfer it onto the Russian power grid.

However, experts have warned that shutting down a nuclear plant, even in peacetime, is a very complicated exercise.

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Last week, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres renewed calls to demilitarise the power plant.

Speaking after a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky he said: “The facility must not be used as part of any military operation.

“Instead, agreement is urgently needed to re-establish Zaporizhzhia’s purely civilian infrastructure and to ensure the safety of the area.”

Ms Kosharna agreed that the area should be demilitarised and that inspectors from the UN’s nuclear agency, the IAEA, should be given access to the site immediately.

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