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'terrorist attack' Fears grow Vladimir Putin is plotting attack on Chernobyl with Kyiv being blamed

Western leaders issue chemical weapons warning


Rescuers work among remains of buildings damaged by an airstrike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues in Dnipro, Ukraine. Photo: Reuters

Rescuers work among remains of buildings damaged by an airstrike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues in Dnipro, Ukraine. Photo: Reuters

Rescuers work among remains of buildings damaged by an airstrike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues in Dnipro, Ukraine. Photo: Reuters

Russia is stockpiling corpses of dead Ukrainian soldiers to plant as evidence in a false-flag operation at Chernobyl, Ukrainian officials have warned.

Kyiv’s Military Intelligence Directorate said Vladimir Putin plans to release radioactive waste in what would amount to a “terrorist attack”.

In a statement, it said Kremlin forces have been seen laying the groundwork by collecting “fake evidence” to blame Ukraine for a nuclear leak.

“Russian car refrigerators collecting the bodies of dead Ukrainian defenders were spotted near the Antonov airport in Hostomel,” it said. “There is a possibility that they will be presented as killed saboteurs in the Chernobyl zone.”

Russian forces have been in charge of the disused power plant since capturing it in the first few days of the war.

Ukrainian officials say the occupiers have refused to let the facility’s repairmen and engineers back onto the site.

They have warned that there is now just 48 hours’ worth of diesel left with which to power its emergency generators.

Kyiv says saboteurs posing as Belarusian nuclear experts have been brought in to prepare a “man-made catastrophe for which the occupiers will try to shift responsibility to Ukraine”. But the Kremlin claims they are technicians who were sent in to restore power to the derelict plant.

Russia argues it is Ukraine and the US that are preparing to trigger biological warfare through the use of chemical weapons.

Moscow’s foreign ministry said “radical Ukrainian groups under the control of the representatives of American special services” are plotting atrocities. It said they were planning multiple attacks, including “the destruction of containers
with toxic chemicals in highly populated areas”. “The objective of such actions is to accuse Russia of the use of chemical weapons against the civil population and violating its obligations,” it added. There is no evidence the claims are anything other than fabrication.

British prime minister Boris Johnson has raised concerns that disinformation is being sown by the Kremlin so it can deflect blame for its own atrocities. “They start saying that there are chemical weapons that have been stored by their opponents or by the Americans,” he told Sky News.

“And so when they themselves deploy chemical weapons, as I fear they may, they have as a sort of a maskirovka, a fake story ready to go.”

US president Joe Biden vowed that Russia “would pay a severe price if it used chemical weapons” in Ukraine.

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But speaking at the White House, he ruled out any direct military intervention by the US as he said it would spark “World War III”. “We will not fight a war against Russia in Ukraine,” he told reporters.

Chris Philp, the UK technology minister, said the use of chemical weapons would “trigger a dramatic, increased response” from the West.

Kyiv said that the aim of any false-flag operation at Chernobyl would be to undermine Western support for its defensive efforts.

In an intelligence update posted to social media, Kyiv’s Military Intelligence Directorate said the Kremlin faces having to resort to such tactics because the invasion has stalled. It wrote: “According to available information, Vladimir Putin has ordered the preparation of a terrorist attack at the Chernobyl nuclear station.

“Without getting the desired result from the ground military operation and direct negotiations, Putin is ready to commit nuclear blackmail of the world community.

“Putin’s actions will have catastrophic consequences for the whole world. It looks like this is exactly what the Russian dictator is counting on.”

Chernobyl has been designated as an exclusion zone since a meltdown at the Soviet-built plant in 1986. Reactor 4 was covered with a giant steel and concrete tomb in 2016 to prevent future leaks.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has been cut off from the site since Russian troops took it over.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said yesterday Ukraine had reached a “strategic turning point” in the conflict with Russia, but Russian forces bombarded cities across the country and appeared to be regrouping for a possible assault on the capital, Kyiv.

The governor of the Kharkiv region, on the Russian border, said a psychiatric hospital had been hit, and the mayor of the city of Kharkiv said about 50 schools there had been destroyed.

In the besieged southern city of Mariupol, its council said at least 1,582 civilians had been killed as a result of Russian shelling and a 12-day blockade that has left hundreds of thousands trapped with no food, water, heat or power.

Russia’s defence ministry said the Black Sea port was now completely surrounded and Ukrainian officials accused Russia of deliberately preventing civilians getting out and humanitarian convoys getting in.

A new effort to evacuate civilians along a humanitarian corridor from Mariupol appeared to have failed, with Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk saying Russian shelling prevented them from leaving. “The situation is critical,” Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko said.

Eastern Europe’s efforts to aid Ukrainians came under strain yesterday, with some cities running out of accommodation as the number of refugees passed 2.5 million.

Relief work in frontline states – Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Moldova – has mainly been shouldered by ordinary citizens volunteering to drive, cook or house refugees, with the help of non-governmental organisations and local authorities.

But with the war now in its third week and the number of refugees swelling, it is becoming difficult to provide sufficient help. In Krakow, Poland’s second-largest city, one NGO described the situation at the train station as “tragic”.

“There is nowhere to direct the refugees. They are stressed and confused, all kinds of help is needed, and above all, premises,” tweeted Fundacja Brata Alberta, an NGO that in normal times helps individuals with mental disabilities.

Western countries, meanwhile, took more steps to try to force Putin to end his assault.

US president Joe Biden said the G7 industrialised nations would revoke Russia’s “most favoured nation” trade status. He also announced a US ban on imports of Russian seafood, alcohol and diamonds.

European Union leaders meeting in France said they were ready to impose harsher economic sanctions on Russia and might give Ukraine more funds for arms. But they rejected Ukraine’s request to join the bloc.

At a meeting with Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko, Putin said there were “certain positive shifts” in talks with Kyiv, but did not elaborate.

Russia’s main attack force has been stalled on roads north of Kyiv, having failed in what Western analysts say was an initial plan for a lightning assault. But images released by private US satellite firm Maxar showed armoured units manoeuvring in and through towns close to an airport on Kyiv’s northwest outskirts, the site of fighting since Russia landed paratroopers there in the first hours of the war.

Other elements had repositioned near Lubyanka to the north, with artillery howitzers in firing positions, Maxar said.

Britain’s defence ministry said Russia appeared to be gearing up for new offensive activity in the coming days that would probably include operations against Kyiv.

However, the Russian ground forces were still making only limited progress, hampered by logistical problems and Ukrainian resistance, it said in its intelligence update. The Ukrainian general staff said Russian forces were regrouping after taking heavy losses.

(© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2022)

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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]