The BBC reports that a ‘mad panic’ has ensued as Russia attempts to evacuate the inhabitants of 18 towns and settlements near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The information comes from an unnamed Ukrainian official.
Russia has told people to leave the settlements, including Enerhodar which is very close to the plant, ahead of an anticipated major military offensive in the region. The Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, is quoted as saying that there were five-hour long queues as thousands of cars left the city. The Ukrainian general staff have said civilians were being evacuated to the cities of Berdyansk and Prymorsk, which are further inside Russian-held territory.
The UN's has warned that a "severe nuclear accident" could occur. Rafael Grossi, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency said the situation at the Zaporizhzhia plant was "becoming increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous".
The IAEA statement said that its experts on the ground had ‘received information that the announced evacuation of residents from the nearby town of Enerhodar – where most plant staff live – has started’. The Russian response is said to be a response to the stepping up of shelling of settlements close to the front line.
The IAEA has issued warnings previously about safety at the plant – which Russia captured in the opening days of its invasion in 2022 – after shelling caused temporary power cuts.
Russian forces occupy much of the Zaporizhzhia region but not the regional capital Zaporizhzhia, which lies just north-east of Enerhodar across the Dnipro reservoir.
Image courtesy of RIA news agency