The Battle For The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant

“ZNPP” = Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant

Peering Through The Fog Of War

In a post last week (Who Is Shelling The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant), we looked at conflicting claims about who was shelling the largest nuclear power plant in Europe: the Russians, who have occupied it since late February, or the Ukrainians. In this post, we’ll share Russian-based Ukrainian analyst Yuri Podolyaka’s assessment about what happened this week in the vicinity of the plant as the International Atomic Energy Agency personnel were headed to the plant.

This translation from the Russian is via Russell “Texas” Bentley’s Telegram channel. Bentley is a Texan who moved to the Donbass in 2014 to fight on the side of the Russian separatists and has lived there since. His translation of Podolyaka’s is in more idiomatic English than Russian English speakers’ translations I’ve seen (e.g., “country houses” instead of “dachas”).

So, the plan was as follows. By the time the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] mission would have arrived to Energodar, the AFU [Armed Forces of Ukraine] special forces, in cooperation with other units and under the artillery cover from the northern bank, were to take control of the territory of the plant, and that was what the IAEA mission was to record.

Let us start with the preceding story. A few days ago when the IAEA announced its plans not only to visit the station but also to place permanent observers at it, it left me puzzled. It looked like a clear giving way to Russia, because a permanent mission in the area would enable eliminating the problem of shelling – however, today it turned out this was a set-up in favor of Kiev rather than Russia.

Let’s move on to today’s events. That night, the special forces of the AFU landed in the area of the summer houses northeast of the ZNPP and by 5 am covertly occupied the initial assault line (the RF Ministry of Defense claims that it happened later, but it is not really essential). Their task was to break into the territory of the plant and to ensure reception of the main group of troops landing later.

At 5.20 am the artillery of the AFU opened fire on the RF [Russian Federation] Armed Forces posts placed at the plant, and around 6 am the first wave of the landing troops began their attack.

At the same time the second wave – 2 barges that could carry up to a battalion of infantry reinforced with mortars (plus ammo) – left Nikopol. Taking the distance into account, the approximate time of its arrival at the ZNPP was about 7.30 am.

By this time, the vanguard unit should have dislodged the Rosgvardiya [Russian national guard] forces and stormed the plant’s territory. But the defending troops withstood the first strike, and at about 7.00 am Russian aircraft or helicopters sank both barges of the second echelon, and thereafter the entire plan to capture the plant was foiled. The rest of the advanced assault group retreated to the landing point, where it was pinned down – it is being finished off there now.

Thus, we can admit that the plan was really beautiful (although it also seems to have been revealed to Russian intelligence). No less beautiful than the Russian airborne special forces landing in Gostomel [the airport in suburban Kiev where Russian paratroopers landed as part of Russia’s failed coup de main in February]. However, the plan collapsed and resulted in the loss of two platoons of the AFU and up to a battalion on the barges of the second wave. That is about 300-400 men. Without any result.

Moreover, now Kiev does not even know what to do with the IAEA mission. After all, if it reaches Energodar and fulfills the “threat” of leaving its representatives there, it completely ruins the whole game of Zelensky’s gang regarding the “ZNPP case”.

P.S. By the way, it is probably also why at 8.00 am the artillery of the Ukrainian Armed Forces shelled the expected front crossing point of the IAEA mission.

The IAEA Arrives

Once the IAEA representatives reached the area surrounding the plant, they were presented with a box of petitions from local residents demanding international condemnation of the shelling of the plant and an end to the shelling.

On Thursday, in New York, UN Secretary-General spokesman Stéphane Dujarric was asked by RIA Novosti’s New York Bureau chief Alan Bulkaty about about the attempted attack on the plant. This is from the UN’s official transcript:

Spokesman:  No, I think he’s concerned about what he’s read.  Mr. Bulkaty.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Russian Defence Ministry today… it’s about the IAEA Mission, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.  Russian Defence Ministry today stated that the Ukrainian group of saboteurs tried to, attempted to seize, capture, the station in order to use the Mission as a human shield.  So, they were neutralised, according to the Defence Ministry, and the officials of Russian Defence Ministry expressed bewilderment, “due to the lack of reaction of the UN Secretary-General to this incident”.  Do you have any reaction in this regard?

Spokesman:  We are glad that the Russian Federation did what it needed to do to keep our, the inspectors safe.  I think our security people, our drivers have done a tremendous job in getting the IAEA inspectors in.  They will continue to support the mission until it ends.  And it is, like with any UN mission, it is the responsibility of those in, who have power over a certain area and who are responsible for a certain area to keep UN staff safe.  Edward?

A video clip of that interaction appears in the tweet below, and was shared by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The Question of the Shelling Remains

Later in the UN briefing (which you can watch in full here), another journalist (only identified as “Edward” in transcript), after confirming that there are UN security personnel at the plant with the IAEA, asks if they can resolve the question of who is shelling the plant. The answer is “no”, as you can see below.

Spokesman:  We are glad that the Russian Federation did what it needed to do to keep our, the inspectors safe.  I think our security people, our drivers have done a tremendous job in getting the IAEA inspectors in.  They will continue to support the mission until it ends.  And it is, like with any UN mission, it is the responsibility of those in, who have power over a certain area and who are responsible for a certain area to keep UN staff safe.  Edward?

Question:  Just a follow-up, because you said the UN would offer the logistics and the security support to the Mission in Zaporizhzhia. Are there any UN security personnel with the Mission?

Spokesman:  Yes.

Question:  So, since there are people from the UN security there, before this, Ukrainian side and Russian side, they are accusing each other of shelling or sabotaging the nuclear plant.  So, now UN has the first-hand… I mean, at least security personnel there so they can make a judgment now.

Spokesman:  First of all, they don’t have… these are people who are there to provide close security.  They are not there to do ballistics, right?  They don’t have the know-how.  They don’t have the technology nor do they have the mandate to do logistics, you know, ballistics assessment at looking at shells that come in, where they came in, making… that’s just not their job.  Their focus is to keep our people safe, working with the authorities who are in charge in the areas in which they are located.

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