Chernobyl was cut off from the national grid by Russian forces, sparking fears of a radiation leak (Picture: AP/AFP)
Russia’s foreign minister has said the invasion of Ukraine ‘won’t turn nuclear’ and accused the West of having a Freudian obsession with the topic.
Sergei Lavrov said he did not believe the conflict would spiral into a nuclear war and said the theme had been thrown into discussions only by the West, which he said kept on returning to it like Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis.
Asked by a Kremlin correspondent for Russia’s Kommersant newspaper if he thought a nuclear war could be triggered, Lavrov told reporters in Turkey: ‘I don’t want to believe it, and I do not believe it.’
He added: ‘Of course it gives us cause for concern when the West, like Freud, keeps on returning and returning to this topic.’
The press conference came as Ukraine’s national electricity grid operator said it has a team ready to restore power at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and is waiting for a safe corridor to be created.
The site of the world’s worst nuclear accident was cut from the grid by Russian forces yesterday, sparking fears of a radiation leak.
The facility is running on reserve back-up generators which officials say only have a 48 hour capacity.
Although no longer a working power station, Chernobyl was never fully abandoned, and still requires constant management.
The outage could put systems for cooling nuclear material at risk, meaning radioactive substances could be released into the air.
Belarus’ authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko – a close ally of Russia – has instructed specialists to ensure that power is supplied to the Ukrainian plant, according to Belarusian state-owned news agency BelTA.
Chernobyl is situated near the border with Belarus.
However, Ukraine has rejected the offer and called for a ceasefire so their own officials can fix the connection.
Ukrenergo, the national grid operator, said it ‘did not need the assistance of the Belarusian side in repairing the high-voltage line damaged by Russian shelling’.
‘Our repair teams are ready to restore the line immediately, despite the threat of being shot by the enemy and are waiting for permission,’ it said in a statement on Facebook.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk also appealed in a video posted Thursday on Telegram for Russia to allow crews in to repair a ‘special power transmission line’ that she said has been damaged.
‘We demand that a repair team immediately be allowed access to get rid of the damage,’ Vereshchuk said. ‘We ask the global community to focus its attention on this problem.’
The UN nuclear watchdog said yesterday that the outage wouldn’t impact safety.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the plant has ‘sufficient’ cooling water for spent nuclear fuel.
Ukrainian authorities said that around 20,000 spent fuel assemblies are stored at Chernobly.
The state service communications channel (SSSCIP) tweeted: ‘They need constant cooling. Which is possible only if there is electricity.
‘If it is not there, the pumps will not cool. As a result, the temperature in the holding pools will increase.
‘After that evaporation will occur, that will lead to nuclear discharge.
‘The wind can transfer the radioactive cloud to other regions of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and Europe.’
Russia took control of Chernobyl on the first day of the invasion and has since captured a second nuclear site.
Ukraine has accused Moscow of blackmailing the world with nuclear catastrophe after its troops seized Zaporizhzhya – the biggest nuclear plant in Europe.
Nato allies have been refusing calls to impose a No-Fly Zone to stop the Russian Air Force from attacking Ukraine due to fears of sparking a wider conflict.
Last week, Lavrov appeared to send a chilling warning to the West when he said a World War III would be ‘nuclear and destructive’.
Beatrice Fihn, who leads the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) said she had never in her lifetime seen the nuclear threat level so high.
Experts in the UK believe a nuclear war is unlikely, but that contingency plans must be made in case Putin launches a nuclear attack on Britain.
Russia-Ukraine war: Everything you need to know
Over two million Ukrainian refugees have fled, as cities face shortages of food, water, heat, and medicine – with some having to resort to melting snow for water.
Countries have retaliated by imposing sanctions on Russia and oligarchs such as Roman Abramovich, while large companies like Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola have suspended business in the country.
However, despite these economic blows, Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn’t shown any signs of calling off the attack anytime soon.