Energoatom, Ukraine’s state nuclear power company, on Tuesday said that Russia had kidnapped and tortured the deputy head of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.
Russian forces have occupied the nuclear plant for months as Ukrainian staff operate it and shelling continues nearby, but reports have become more dire since Russia annexed four Ukrainian territories, including the one that encompasses the plant.
Energoatom said at the start of the month that Russia kidnapped the plant’s head as the annexation effort commenced, and the agency on Tuesday now says Russia similarly took Zaporizhzhia’s second-in-command, Valeriy Martyniuk, and used “methods of torture and intimidation.”
“In this way, the Russians are trying to get much-needed information about the personnel files of Zaporizhzhia NPP employees in order to force Ukrainian staff to work for Rosatom as soon as possible,” Energoatom wrote on its Telegram channel, referring to Russia’s equivalent agency.
“The occupiers literally torture ZNPP nuclear workers not neglecting the cruelest forms of abuse,” the post continued.
Reports from the plant have become more dire following the annexations, with Ukrainian employees detailing how Russian forces shot and beat them, hoping to intimidate the staff into running the nuclear plant, which is Europe’s largest.
The nuclear plant’s situation has received global attention, including from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations’s nuclear watchdog, which has sent staff to the plant.
“We appeal to the IAEA Director General Raphael Grossi and the entire world community to take all possible measures for the immediate release of Valeriy Martyniuk from the captivity of the Russian occupiers and his return to the performance of duties,” Energoatom wrote.
Grossi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday in St. Petersburg to discuss Grossi’s call for a “nuclear safety and security protection zone” around the plant, which he has urged for weeks.
The proposal seeks to protect against nuclear disaster from shelling that has persisted in the area as fighting continues over the four territories Russia annexed.
The plant lies near the edge of one of those regions, which is also named Zaporizhzhia, although Ukrainian forces have made territorial gains in areas Russia now lays claim to after the annexation announcement.