A DAMAGED plane sits at the airport in Kherson after the Russian retreat from this town in Ukraine.—AFP
A DAMAGED plane sits at the airport in Kherson after the Russian retreat from this town in Ukraine.—AFP

KYIV/VIENNA: Ukraine said on Monday that it had discovered four Russian torture sites in its southern city of Kherson, which Moscow’s forces quit this month leaving behind a trail of misery and destruction.

The Kremlin meanwhile vowed to track down and punish those it said were responsible for the “brutal” murder of nearly a dozen Russian servicemen who were allegedly surrendering to Kyiv.

Russian defence officials made the “difficult” decision earlier this month to retreat from Kherson city, the only regional capital Moscow’s forces had won after nearly nine months of fighting in Ukraine. Kyiv accused the withdrawing forces of rendering useless key infrastructure including water and electricity stations in Kherson, whose loss is a strategic and symbolic blow for the Kremlin.

But on Monday, Kyiv also said Moscow had run a network of torture sites in the city, building on claims that Russian authorities had perpetrated abuses on a “horrific” scale there.

Risk of accident looms over Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

“Together with police officers and experts, (prosecutors) conducted inspections of four premises where, during the capture of the city, the occupiers illegally detained people and brutally tortured them,” the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said in a statement.

Russian forces had also set up “pseudo-law enforcement agencies” at detention centres in Kherson as well as in a police station, prosecutors said in a statement.

Risk of nuclear accident

Fresh explosions over the weekend at Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant have once again heightened fears of an accident at Europe’s biggest atomic plant. Here is a look at the state of the plant in southern Ukraine and the risks associated with renewed shelling and the pressure placed on personnel.

Moscow took control of the site on March 4 shortly after the beginning of its invasion. Since early August, the situation at the plant has deteriorated with Moscow and Kyiv blaming each other for shelling around the facility.

This weekend, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported around a dozen strikes. “Whoever it is, stop this madness!” IAEA head Rafael Grossi said.

Grossi, who has warned of the possibility of a “nuclear catastrophe”, has been in talks with Moscow and Kyiv to set up a security zone around the plant. The Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog has several experts on site.

Describing the strikes as “deliberate, targeted”, he said the latest shelling came “dangerously close to... key nuclear safety and security systems at the plant... We are talking metres, not kilometres”. Among places that were damaged is a radioactive waste and storage building, the IAEA said, adding radiation levels at the site remain normal.

“A direct impact on the reactors, on associated facilities in particular the spent fuel areas, where the spent fuel is located, could have very serious consequences,” Grossi warned in September.

The containment of each of the six Russian-designed reactors is “fairly robust”, Tariq Rauf, a former IAEA official, said. He added that after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan “a lot of remedial measures and back up supply” have been put in place.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2022

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