Ukrainian nuclear workers speak of abuse and intimidation from Russians. WGN Radio 720

ZAPORIZHIA, SOUTH EAST UKRAINE (AP) — Alone in an apartment in the Russian-occupied city of Enerhodar in southeastern Ukraine, Serhiy Shvets, a nuclear power plant security guard, looks out of his kitchen window in late May when gunfire strikes. I saw the criminal approaching down the street below. When the buzzer sounded, he knew he was about to die.

Shuvec, a former Ukrainian army soldier and loyal to Kyiv, knew the shooter would either kill him or kidnap and torture him. He briefly thought about recording a farewell to his family, who had fled safely abroad, but instead lit a cigarette and picked up a gun.

Six Russian soldiers broke down the door and opened fire, which he returned. Having injured his hand, thigh, ear and stomach, Mr. Shvets began to lose consciousness. Before he could do so, he heard the group commander tell his men to put out the fire and call an ambulance.

Shvetz, who survived the shooting, is one of the workers at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant and speaks of fears of being kidnapped and tortured or killed by the Russian forces occupying the facility and the city of Enerkhodar. Ukrainian officials say the Russians are trying to intimidate staff through beatings and other abuses into keeping the factories running.

good life before the war

Before the Russian invasion on February 24, life was good for the employees of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. They were guaranteed a financially secure and stable life for their families.

Ukraine is still traumatized by the world’s worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986, but the Zaporizhia plant, Europe’s largest nuclear facility with six reactors, employs around 11,000 people. , and Enerjodar and its pre-war population of 53,000 are one of them. Richest city in the region.

But after the Russian occupation of the city early in the war, the once comfortable life turned into a nightmare.

The invaders captured the ZNPP, about 6 km (nearly 4 miles) from Enerhodar, but continued to deploy Ukrainian staff to carry it out. Both sides claimed that the shelling of the plant damaged the power lines connecting it to the grid, prompting international alarms about its safety. Ukrainian officials say the Russians used the plant as a shield for firing artillery shells into nearby towns.

Reports of staff threats and kidnappings began trickling in over the summer. Rafael Mariano Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, told the Associated Press about reports of violence between Russian and Ukrainian officials.

About 4,000 ZNPP workers fled. Those who remained cited threats of kidnapping and torture. This was underscored on Friday when factory director Ikhor Murashov was captured and blindfolded by Russian troops on his way home from work.

Petro Kotin, president of Ukrainian state-owned nuclear energy company Energoatom, said he was released on Monday after being forced to make false statements in front of cameras. Kotin told the Associated Press that Murashov was released on the edge of Russian-controlled territory and walked about 15 kilometers (9 miles) to Ukrainian-controlled territory.

“I think it was mental torture,” Cochin said of Murashov’s suffering. “All the shelling of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant was carried out by the Ukrainian army, and I was forced to say that he is a Ukrainian spy and is in contact with Ukrainian special forces.”

Enerhodar’s deposed mayor Dmytro Orlov spoke with Murashov after his release and factory officials said he “spent two days in solitary confinement in a basement with handcuffs and a bag over his head.” said. His condition can hardly be called normal. “

President Volodymyr Zelensky described Murashov’s kidnapping as “a new manifestation of fully exposed Russian terrorism”.

“Horrible things happen there”

More than 1,000 people, including factory workers, were kidnapped from Enochdar, but some are estimated to have been released. Orlov fled to the nearest Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhia after refusing to cooperate with Russia. . Kotin estimates that between 100 and 200 people remain abducted.

Orlov said the first abduction was on March 19, when the Russians detained Orlov’s deputy, Ivan Samodiuk, whose whereabouts remain unknown. After that, the abductions accelerated, he said.

“Most of the time they took people with pro-Ukrainian stances who were actively involved in the resistance movement,” he said.

Orlov claimed they were tortured at various locations in Enerhoder, including the city’s police station, basements elsewhere, and even the ZNPP itself.

“There are terrible things going on there,” he said. “Those who managed to come out said they were tortured with electric currents, beaten, raped and shot. … Some did not survive.”

AP journalists have seen similar sites in parts of the Kharkov region abandoned by Russian forces after the Ukrainian counterattack. In the city of Izium, an AP investigation uncovered 10 separate torture sites.

According to Orlov, factory worker Andriy Honcharuk died in hospital on July 3, shortly after the Russians beat him and released him unconscious after he refused to follow factory orders.

Worker Oleksiy, who said he was responsible for controlling the power plant’s turbines and reactor compartment, fled Enerkhodar in June when he learned that Russian troops were looking for him. A 39-year-old man asked not to reveal his name for fear of retaliation.

“It was psychologically difficult,” Oleksiy told the AP in Kyiv. “You go to the station and meet the passengers there. You come to work already depressed.

He said many factory workers “visited the basement” and were tortured there.

“Graves have appeared in the woods surrounding the city. It means everyone knows something terrible is happening,” he said. “They kidnap people because of their pro-Ukrainian position or if they find a Telegram group on the phone.

Another employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of safety, said he was not afraid to work at the factory during the shelling but decided to flee in September after a colleague was seized. While he was away, Russians visited his home twice, and the prospect of torture was too great for him, he said.

The plant’s last reactor was shut down in September to prevent disaster from constant shelling that cut off the reliable external power supply needed for cooling and other safety systems. Kotin said the company could restart his two reactors in days to protect safety equipment as winter approaches and temperatures drop.

However, the power plant is located in one of four regions annexed by Russia, and its future is uncertain.

Kotin on Tuesday updated his request for a “demilitarized zone” around the plant where two IAEA experts are based.

‘Freedom or Death’

For Serhiy Shvets, whose apartment was raided on May 23, it was only a matter of time before the Russians picked him up during the occupation of Enerhodar, he said. He signed to join the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces shortly after the invasion and sent his wife and other relatives out of the country for safety.

He said the Russians who shot him had called an ambulance “so that I could die in the hospital.”

Doctors initially gave him a 5% chance of survival after losing almost two-thirds of his blood. However, after several surgeries, he is well enough to leave Enerhodar in July and lives in Zaporizhzhia.

Schwetz, who wears a metal brace on his right hand, quietly exhales from the pain as he moves it, saying his only regret now is that he is too handicapped to fight. Told.

“I am descended from the Cossacks of Zaporizhia,” he said, referring to his ancestors who lived in Ukrainian territory from the 15th to the 18th centuries and defended it from invaders. Freedom or death.”

He added:


Contributed by Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia.


Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at Ukrainian nuclear workers speak of abuse and intimidation from Russians. WGN Radio 720

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