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Gunmen attempt to enter Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant

Published time: May 17, 2014 18:03

Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant (Image from npp.zp.ua)

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Ukrainian police stopped a group of armed men from entering Europe's largest nuclear power plant, located in southeastern Ukraine. In video footage allegedly showing the attempted break-in, the men say they are members of the Right Sector group.

The gunmen were stopped Thursday at the entrance of the city of Energodar, near Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant, the facility's press service said in a Friday statement on its website.

The power plant’s authorities said the incident did not affect the station’s operations. However, security at the plant and throughout Energodar has been heightened.

Several cars full of men who introduced themselves as members of the notorious neo-Nazi group Right Sector were stopped at a checkpoint near Energodar, Ukraine’s Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reported. The men were wearing masks, had guns, and said that they were headed to “protect the nuclear power plant and the city from possible seizures,” according to the paper.

“We moved out to protect the city, but we were stopped and circled by police,” a Right Sector member told RBK Ukraine.

Local police said they confiscated the men’s weapons and launched a criminal investigation.

Footage posted on Svoboda TV's YouTube account on Thursday – allegedly shot during the attempted break-in – shows a group of masked men preparing to enter Energodar.

In the footage, the men say they are members of the Right Sector in Zaporizhia (Zaporozhye) region, adding that they came to protect Energodar from activists who wanted to “hoist Russian flags” in the city.

“The Right Sector got hold of information that pro-Russian activists are preparing to change [Ukrainian] flags to Russian at the check points of Energodar city. The Right Sector moved forward to prevent this,”
one man says.

The men in the video are holding Ukrainian flags and shouting nationalist slogans including, “Heroes don’t die! Glory to Ukraine! Glory to heroes!”

However, on its official website, the Right Sector denied that its men wanted to seize the station.

“There was misinformation [in the media] that this group belongs to the Right Sector,” the statement on the far-right group’s website reads. “The Right Sector officially notifies that it had and has no plans to storm the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant.”

Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant is the largest nuclear power plant (NPP) not only in Ukraine, but also in Europe, according to the operator of Ukrainian NPPs. It is situated in the steppe zone of Ukraine, on the bank of the Kakhovka water reservoir. The plant generates 40-42 billion kWh per year, which accounts for one-fifth of the average annual electricity production in Ukraine and almost 47 percent of electricity generated at Ukrainian nuclear power plants.

Previously, Right Sector leader Dmitry Yarosh threatened to destroy Russian pipelines supplying gas to Europe through Ukrainian territory. Moscow put Yarosh on the international wanted list and charged him with inciting terrorism after he urged Chechen terrorist leader Doku Umarov to launch attacks on Russia.

Right Sector group members were very active in the violence which triggered the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovich in February. The group’s fighters used clubs, petrol bombs, and firearms against Ukrainian police and have been wearing Nazi insignia.

The group has adopted an extreme, anti-Russian stance and moved its headquarters from Kiev to the eastern city of Dnepropetrovsk in April.

Right Sector members have been identified among the National Guard forces, which were formed after the coup and are loyal to Kiev authorities. National Guard battalions have been involved in the punitive military operation against pro-federalization activists in southeastern Ukraine, in which many have been killed or wounded.

Among the latest violence was the massacre in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa on May 2, when clashes erupted between anti-government protesters and radicals supporting the coup-imposed authorities in Kiev. Forty-eight people were killed and over 200 injured as nationalists burnt the protester camp and set fire to the Trade Unions House with anti-Kiev activists trapped inside. Many of those who managed to escape the flames were then beaten to death by nationalists, according to witnesses.