Russia to evacuate more Zaporizhzhia nuclear workers - Ukraine's Energoatom

FILE PHOTO: A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant

KYIV (Reuters) - Russian forces are planning to evacuate more than 3,000 workers from the town that serves the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, resulting in a "catastrophic lack" of personnel, Ukraine's state-owned Energoatom company said on Wednesday.

Last week, the head of the U.N.'s nuclear power watchdog, Rafael Grossi, said the situation around the Russian-held nuclear station had become "potentially dangerous" after Moscow-installed officials began evacuating people from nearby areas.

Russia's TASS state news agency said on Monday the Moscow-installed governor of the Russia-controlled part of the surrounding region had suspended operations at the plant.

Ukraine's Energoatom said it had received information about preparations for the evacuation of about 3,100 people from the southern city of Enerhodar, including 2,700 workers who had signed contracts with the Russian-installed company.

"The Russian occupiers are proving their inability to ensure the operation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as there is now a catastrophic lack of qualified personnel," it said in a statement on the Telegram messaging service.

"Even those Ukrainian workers who, having signed shameful contracts, ... are going to be 'evacuated' soon. And this will exacerbate the already extremely urgent issue of having a sufficient number of personnel to ensure the safety of operation of the NPP (nuclear power plant) even in the current shutdown state."

Reuters was not able to independently verify the reports. Russia did not immediately comment.

Ukraine is widely expected to soon launch a counteroffensive to try to push back Russian forces, and commentators say retaking the whole of the Zaporizhzhia region is one of its aims.

Russian forces seized the Zaporizhzhia plant days after President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Exchanges of fire have frequently occurred near the facility, with each side blaming the other.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, Editing by Timothy Heritage)