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According to the media, the nuclear power plant in Ukraine is controlled by the Russian military and being bombed by artillery.
The Ukrainian state spokespersons accuse the Russians of bombing it themselves while the Russian state spokespersons blame the Ukrainian military. Both warn of the danger of a nuclear disaster.
Amidst the trading accusations, about what can we all be sure?
Well, really only of a few things about which there is (or seems to be) agreement:
- The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, although it is being maintained in operation by the Ukrainian State’s employees is within the area occupied by the Russian military very soon after the Russian invasion.
- The plant is being bombed by someone.
- Due to the bombing, there is a danger of nuclear disaster, initially in the Donbas region where the plant is located but quickly affecting large areas of at least the Ukrainian and of the Russian states and ultimately affecting other areas of Europe1.
- The bombing of the plant should stop immediately and all possible efforts should be expended in that direction.
To go beyond that and arrive at a reasonably safe conclusion about who is doing the bombing, we need to employ critical deductive analysis and to set aside as far as we can our prejudices. We can’t help but have those but we can set them aside for a moment.
Using critical deductive analysis means looking at aspects like what is logical, who benefits from what, what other evidence is available ….
CRITICAL DEDUCTIVE ANALYSIS
Who could benefit from the bombing? In theory, either.
The Ukrainian authorities say the Russian do because they wish to blame their opponents.
Since the Ukrainians have demanded the Russians – apart from withdrawing their military entirely – remove themselves from the area of the nuclear plant, presumably the Ukrainians would benefit from blame attaching to the Russians.
Interestingly, “The US, United Nations and Ukraine have called for a withdrawal of military equipment and personnel from the nuclear complex, Europe’s largest, to ensure it is not a target.”2
The Ukrainian state already has US/NATO and the western mass media on its side but a threatened nuclear disaster would inject much greater urgency into the Ukrainian State’s regular calls for more and greater weapons.
Presumably the Russian state, if they were seen to be innocent of this bombing, could use the danger of nuclear disaster to rally greater support within its state and among its allies too.
Who faces the greatest risk in the continued bombing?
Both face a risk of a nuclear disaster, initially and later from fallout. However, initially at least, it is the Russian military in the immediate area, along with the Ukrainian staff of the plant at greatest risk.
But very close behind that in high risk come the civilian population of the Donbas, from which Luhansk militia are drawn – in other words, friends, families, relations, lovers of the Luhansk militia.
Who knows the truth?
Undoubtedly, in the immediate first instance, the Ukrainian military, the Russian military, the people of the locality including the Luhansk militia and, presumably, the staff of the nuclear plant. But also the intelligence services of US/NATO.
The mainstream western media is not publishing interviews with the people of the locality and have slanted their general reporting against Russia, which leaves the Ukrainian State side with the most impact3 in the controversy.
And the intelligence services of US/NATO, who have kept quiet on this issue.
Another accusation which the Ukrainian authorities have made against the Russian side is that they have installed artillery around the nuclear plant from which they have been firing at the Ukrainian military.
This would be against rules of conflict that military should avoid installing their personnel, weapons or material in or around civilian facilities.4
Accusing the Russian military of installing artillery around the site would also seem to provide the Ukrainian military with a reason for shelling the area themselves.
There is a strong inconsistency in the Ukrainian accusation, ignored by the media. We are asked to believe that the Russian military is shelling the facility but also firing from next to it?
Is it possible? Fire from the position, move all the weapons and personnel out, then bomb it themselves, repeat the whole operation and repeat again? Hardly.
And such movements would surely show up in intelligence reports of US/NATO but they are not confirming it. In fact, the Russian side showed their satellite photos of the site in which no artillery could be seen and also pointed out that the US had their own satellite images but was saying nothing.
Satellite imagery was published recently showing smoke from artillery strikes on the site and would surely be available to show alleged Russian artillery installations there and, in fact, their firing from there5.
And very clear satellite imagery was readily available and published in the media to support the Ukrainian authorities’ claim that Russian planes in the Saky airbase in the Crimea had been destroyed on 9th August.6
Another inconsistency of the allegation that the Russians are risking a nuclear disaster is in reconciling it with Russian state war aims.
The Russians say they invaded to prevent the Ukrainian state from becoming an outpost of the US/NATO offensive military alliance along their border and b) to protect the largely Russian-speaking population of the Donbas area from attacks by the Ukrainian fascists and military.
The Ukrainian State, backed up by US/NATO and the media7 say that all of it is to do with Russian imperialism and land-grabbing.
In either case, is it likely that the Russians would risk nuclear contamination of the whole area they wish to occupy or to defend? And is it likely that the Luhansk militia, drawn from the people of the area, would permit their homes and family to be put in such a terrible risk?
Having employed critical deductive analysis of the available evidence, the logical conclusion must be that
- The nuclear facility is being bombed by the Ukrainian military
- They are bombing it hoping to force the Russian military evacuation out of the area and/or to accuse the Russian military of doing the bombing and to employ it in propaganda against the invading Russian military
- and to create a sense of environmental danger from the latter
- in which they are accustomed to expect uncritical cooperation from the mainstream western media and from US/NATO
- to assist in having states within NATO send them more and more weapons
WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN?
- Clearly, the Ukrainian military should cease bombarding the nuclear installation immediately
- and to assist in that, the western media should make clear who is responsible.
- And the International Atomic Energy Agency should send as neutral a team as possible (including perhaps officials and experts from China, Iran and India) to inspect the site and publish their results8.
- The USA/ NATO should break their silence on their satellite surveillance and photos of the site.
This process and conclusion will be difficult for a number of key players and for many commentators. The process will expose the Ukrainian military as having been engaged in activity with potential to cause an environmental disaster.
It will expose their political leadership as having lied while trying to blame their opponents. The US/NATO block and their allies will be put in an awkward position for having supported the Ukrainian authorities while they were engaged in that activity.
The whole affair may switch – or at least weaken — wide western public sympathy away from the Ukrainian state. Many people may have to reappraise their positions in part or even completely.
Difficult, yes – but is that any justification for collusion in the possibility of a nuclear disaster?
1Although assessments of the likely affected range of the disaster differ strongly (see Sources)
2https://www.rte.ie/news/ukraine/2022/0829/1319298-ukraine-russia/ (emphasis in bold is mine)
3At least in the Western world
4Both sides have been accused of violating those rules but in terms of hard evidence, mostly the Ukrainian military, as was revealed in the recent report of the more usually pro-western Amnesty International.
5See image with https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/russia-and-ukraine-trade-claims-of-nuclear-plant-attacks-1356286.html
6Not only that but before and after the explosion images https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/aug/11/russian-warplanes-destroyed-in-crimea-saky-airbase-attack-satellite-images-show
7And large sections of Western liberal and Left opinion.
8As I write this I read that a IAEA team has begun their journey there but without information about its composition https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/iaea-support-and-assistance-mission-sets-out-to-zaporizhzhya-nuclear-power-plant-in-ukraine
A recent media report which on this subject is unusually even-handed: https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/russia-and-ukraine-trade-claims-of-nuclear-plant-attacks-1356286.html
Satellite imagery of and report on strikes against Russian airbase in the Crimea: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/aug/11/russian-warplanes-destroyed-in-crimea-saky-airbase-attack-satellite-images-show
Extremely biased report on degree of danger of and from nuclear fallout, emphasing the danger to the local area: https://www.politico.eu/article/how-real-is-the-danger-from-ukraines-zaporizhzhia-nuclear-power-plant/
Also biased report but claiming much greater danger: https://www.greenpeace.org/international/press-release/52459/nuclear-hazards-zaporizhzhia-plant-ukraine-military-invasion/
IAIA team departs for inspection of the plant: https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/iaea-support-and-assistance-mission-sets-out-to-zaporizhzhya-nuclear-power-plant-in-ukraine
Wikipedia entry on the IAIA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Atomic_Energy_Agency#Criticism