Russian forces kidnap head of Europe's largest nuclear plant

Russian forces kidnap head of Europe's largest nuclear plant

Russian forces blindfolded and detained the head of Europe's largest nuclear plant, Ukraine's nuclear power provider said Saturday, reigniting long-simmering fears over the plant's security.

The alleged kidnapping took place on Friday, shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin escalated his war in Ukraine and pushed it into a new dangerous phase by annexing four Ukrainian regions that Moscow fully or partially controls and heightening threats of nuclear force.

Russian forces took over the director-general of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Ihor Murashov, around 4 p.m. Friday, according to the Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom.

Putin signed treaties to take over the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine, including the area around the nuclear plant.

Putin says Russia will defend newly annexed Ukraine regions by all available means Energoatom said Russian troops stopped Murashov's car, blindfolded him and then took him to an unidentified location.

According to Energoatom President Petro Kotin, his detention by Russia jeopardizes the safety of Ukraine and Europe's largest nuclear power plant.

Russia did not immediately acknowledge seizing the plant director.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Saturday that Russia told it that the director-general of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was temporarily detained to answer questions. The Vienna-based IAEA did not elaborate immediately.

Biden says Putin is not going to scare us after Russian leader refers to using all available means. The power plant has repeatedly been caught in the crossfire of the war in Ukraine. Ukrainian technicians ran the power station after Russian troops seized it.

In September, the last reactor was shut down as a precautionary measure as constant shelling nearby damaged electric transmission lines to the plant.

The plant is a strategic trophy for Russia and has triggered worldwide concern as the only nuclear plant caught up in modern warfare. If Russia installs its own management, it's unlikely that it will start producing electricity again.

It is like a town, with some 11,000 workers before the war. While many have fled the fighting, others have stayed to ensure the safety of its radioactive material and structures.

Energoatom spokespeople told The Associated Press on Saturday that employees of the Zaporizhzhia power plant are being forced to submit applications to Rosatom, Russia's state-owned nuclear energy giant that operates Russian nuclear plants.

Murashov was against handing over the Zaporizhzhia plant to Rosatom, but Energoatom s spokespeople couldn't confirm that this was the reason for his kidnapping.

Murashov had access to security codes, coordinated all the work at the plant, made sure protocols were followed and reported to Kyiv, according to Energoatom s spokespeople. Ukrainian authorities appointed him to run the plant several days before Russian troops rolled into Ukraine.

Energoatom said it hasn't lost connections with the plant, and all important parameters of its work are still reported to Kyiv.