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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Risk Of Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Disaster? Just Another Tactic From Putin's Playbook

Military activity near the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine has raised fears of a Chernobyl scenario. The UN Secretary-General is meeting with Ukraine’s president to discuss the situation — but threatening nuclear disaster is a tool Putin has used before.

Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, in southeastern Ukraine, threatened by Russian shelling.

Of the 16 nuclear power plants in the Soviet Union, four were built in Ukraine. Until recently, the most infamous of these was Chernobyl. But now, all eyes are on the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, Zaporizhzhia, located in the south of Ukraine. The plant has become the new center of war in Ukraine since it was captured by Russia on March 4. Its workers are still held hostage.

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The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and its 15 reactors have been under occupation since April. It has effectively become a military base for the Russian army. Armored vehicles are deployed there, and missiles and artillery are launched from the territory of the nuclear plant.

Ukraine cannot respond to these attacks without risking catastrophe — something Putin knows very well, as he is once again weaponizing the threat of nuclear disaster to help his invasion.

Potentially disastrous consequences for Ukraine

On Aug. 15, Eugene Kramarenko, head of the Ukrainian state agency for the management of the Chernobyl zone, said that in case of an accident at the Zaporizhzhia plant, the predicted area of damage could be close to 30,000 square kilometers. Zaporizhzhia currently contains about 18,000 liquid fuel assemblies, which is 10 times more than Chernobyl at the time of its nuclear accident in 1986.

In the event of a nuclear disaster, close to two million square kilometers could be potentially radioactively contaminated.

Russia has claimed that Ukraine is shelling its own nuclear power plant, but these allegations are illogical given the potentially devastating consequences for Ukraine itself.
Footage of shellings hitting the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant area

On March 4, Russian shellings hit Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, causing one of its buildings to catch fire.

Cover Images/ZUMA

Another pawn in Putin's playbook

Instead, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has become another pawn in Putin’s playbook of intimidation and manipulation. Back in February, Putin put Russia’s nuclear weapons on high alert.

Putin has said that no one can win a nuclear war and that no such war should ever be started. But in the minds of Putin and the fanatics who support him, the threat of nuclear war is real enough.

Russian television has been airing propaganda for months, openly calling for a nuclear missile strike against "Russia's enemies," whether it be Ukraine, the U.S. or Britain. Putin himself at the time said, "We will go to heaven as martyrs, and they will just die."

Putin will not give up his advantage easily

But even though Putin has invaded a sovereign state and violated international laws, many political leaders still (somewhat naively) believe that Putin is bluffing and can be negotiated with.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres is scheduled to meet with the Ukrainian president in Lviv today to address the threat hanging over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

As long as the war is still ongoing, Ukraine has been asking to close the sky over the country. Such requests have so far proved unsuccessful. But Zelensky is expected to ask for help protecting at least the Zaporizhzhia area as well as push for further sanctions to help drive Putin out of the nuclear power plant territory.

In the minds of Putin and the fanatics who support him, the threat of nuclear war is real enough.

But we can already predict the outcome of this meeting. Guterres will voice his acute concern and call on the parties to the conflict to cooperate in preventing an accident at the facility. But nothing will happen, because this situation was much easier to prevent than to resolve.

This war cannot end at the negotiating table, only on the battlefield. Almost all world leaders and experts have already come to this sad conclusion.

Nuclear threat plays into Russia's hands, making Ukraine and the whole world fear Putin’s decisions. This is not an advantage Putin is expected to give up easily.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

A Russian Nuclear Bluff Or The Very Dangerous End Of "Mutually Assured Destruction"?

Retired Major-General Alexander Vladimirov wrote the Russian “war bible.” His words have weight. Now he has declared that the use of nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine is inevitable, citing a justification that consigns the principle of deterrence to the history books.

Photograph of a Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile system showcased during the annual Victory Day military parade.

May 9, 2023, Moscow: A Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile system during the annual Victory Day military parade.

Gavriil Grigorov/Kremlin Pool/ZUMA
Slavoj Žižek


LJUBLJANANuclear war is the “inevitable” conclusion of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. That's the opinion of retired Major-General Alexander Vladimirov, from an interview he gave last week to the journalist Vladislav Shurygin, and reported by the British tabloid The Daily Mail.

The retired general and author of the General Theory of War, which is seen in Moscow as the nation's "war bible," warned: “For the transition to the use of weapons of mass destruction, only one thing is needed – a political decision by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief [Vladimir Putin].” According to Vladimirov, “the goals of Russia and the goals of the West are their survival and historical eternity.”

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That means, he concludes, that they will use all methods at their disposal in this conflict, including nuclear weapons. “I am sure that nuclear weapons will be used in this war – inevitably, and from this, neither we nor the enemy have anywhere to go.”

Recently, Christopher Nolan’s film Oppenheimer sparked outrage in India because it contained an intimate scene that made reference to the Bhagavad Gita. Many people took to Twitter to ask how the censor board could have approved this scene. A press release from the Save Culture, Save India Foundation read: “We do not know the motivation and logic behind this unnecessary scene on life of a scientist. A scene in the movie shows a woman making a man read Bhagwad Geeta aloud (during) sexual intercourse.”

My response to this scene is precisely the opposite: the Bhagavad Gita portrays cruel acts of military slaughter as a sacred duty, so instead we should be protesting that a tender act of bodily passion has been sullied by associating it with a spiritual obscenity. We should be outraged at the evil of “spiritualizing” physical desire.

Isn’t Vladimirov doing something similar in this interview? He is seeking to somehow elevate a (self-destructive, murderous) passion by couching it in obtuse terms such as “historical eternity.”

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