The Russian Ministry of Defense on Wednesday accused "Ukrainian nationalist forces" of committing an "extremely dangerous provocation" by attacking a substation and power lines which provide the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant with electricity. Earlier, Ukrainian authorities claimed that the power cut was Russia's fault, and could put "Europe in danger."
"At the moment the Ukrainian side is doing everything possible to avoid the organization of repair and restoration work. In our opinion, this once again confirms the absolutely deliberate and provocative character of the actions of the nationalists," Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said during a special briefing.
Pankov said that Russian specialists have ensured that the plant will be powered by backup diesel generators, while Russian Deputy Minister of Energy Pavel Sorokin indicated that the plant could be hooked up to the Belarusian energy grid to ensure power on a permanent basis.
"We would like to emphasize and warn that any disruption of the work of compressor stations, or provocations against them, is the responsibility of Ukrainian authorities. This is their contractual obligation, it is the responsibility of the Ukrainian side," Sorokin said.
Russian troops took control of the Chernobyl plant within hours of entering Ukraine, though sporadic fighting between them and Ukrainian forces has been reported in the days since.
Ukraine's nuclear energy firm, Energoatom, warned earlier on Wednesday that communications had been lost with Chernobyl, and that the facility "was fully disconnected from the power grid." With Russian troops operating in the area, the company claimed that Ukrainian repair workers could not get to the plant to restore power.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba declared that once the plant's backup diesel generators run out, "cooling systems of the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel will stop, making radiation leaks imminent." This, he said, would put "entire Europe in danger."
However, the International Atomic Energy Agency said shortly afterwards that there was "no critical impact on safety" at the plant.
"Due to time elapsed since the 1986 Chernobyl accident, the heat load of the spent fuel storage pool and the volume of cooling water contained in the pool is sufficient to maintain effective heat removal without the need for electrical supply," the IAEA had said in an earlier update.
Situated around 100km north of Kiev and 10km from the Belarusian border, Chernobyl is the site of one of the world's worst nuclear disasters. The catastrophic meltdown of one of its reactors in 1986 caused a massive fire and exposed thousands of people living nearby to hazardous levels of radiation. Large areas surrounding the plant remain uninhabitable to this day, and although the plant is no longer generating power, it requires constant upkeep to avoid another accident.