What is happening on the border with Belarus near the Rivne Nuclear Power Plant
I’ve decided that this topic should be elevated more
I have just returned from the Rivne NPP. First of all, it was very important for me to understand the state of readiness of the Ukrainian Army on the border with Belarus and how real the danger from Belarus is, and to see how effectively the Ukrainian military and territorial defense are working there, on the ground. Secondly, since the Rivne NPP is the only operating plant so close to the border with Belarus, it is clear that it is under special attention, given what we already have at the Zaporizhzhya NPP. My third concern was energy security. We know that Ukraine is very dependent on nuclear energy, with 15 nuclear power units operating in the country. If before the war, half of Ukraine's energy supply came from nuclear power plants, today this figure is much higher (as the director of the Rivne NPP told me). Therefore, all these three topics are fundamentally important.
I must say that I was pleasantly surprised when I was on the border with Belarus, at this zero kilometer marker, as they say, where you can see the Belarusian military. On the Ukrainian side, everything is working very well there. Today, there are only four highways that connect Ukraine with Belarus, and the rest is covered in swamps. Today, nature itself helps Ukrainians to defend their territory. As the Ukrainian military tells me, the Belarusians’ military tactics have never been aimed at attacking, and they do not know how to do it. Of course, they can form battalions and go on the offensive, but it will be a deadly path for them.
The governor of Rivne Oblast told me that it is important for the army to be united and motivated. Recently, the Institute for the Study of War released an analysis saying that there is already friction between Belarusians and Russians. This is because the Russian military has occupied local hospitals and many other things, which the Belarusians do not agree with. On the other hand, the other day I spoke with one of the soldiers who is fighting in the Kastus Kalinovsky regiment [a formation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces composed of Belarusians in exile - ed]. He is a former Belarusian special forces officer. He left the service only in 2020 and says that 10% of his colleagues left the service due to disagreement with the authorities, while the rest continue to work. And he says that those who remained were very brainwashed. Thus, they remain decidedly pro-Russian, and if they are told to leave, they will go, even if it means death.
I also talked to local residents. There was one family there with two sisters – one in Rivne Region, and the other nearby in Belarus. And one calls each other and says "You tell your husband that he shouldn't even dare, because we are here for him" - "What are you saying? We will liberate you" - "There is no need to liberate us. But I warn you: if he comes here, I will shoot him with my own hands." Thus is the situation at the border...
The subject of nuclear terrorism, manifested in the seizure of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, is understood in the United States, but not completely. That is why I decided that this topic needs more attention. That is why I went to the Rivne NPP: to show how it works and where the danger lies here, because it seems to me that the world does not realize the scale of Ukrainian atomic energy, and how if something happens, it could lead to disaster. And this catastrophe would not be merely Ukrainian, but global, and certainly one for the entirety of Europe.
It is necessary to realize how difficult the conditions are in which the workers of Ukrainian nuclear power plants work. They are doing their jobs in such massively risky conditions.
It has already risen now to a serious level, and we know that the IAEA will now send its inspectors to all Ukrainian nuclear plants. Yes, at the Zaporizhzhya NPP they told me that they have all the means for protection and even if there is a strike, they also have protection mechanisms, so they do not foresee a disaster like that of the Chornobyl NPP. However, station employees need not only support and normal living conditions, but also psychological support, like all Ukrainians.
My observations about weapons are thus: I have seen over the past 10 months how Washington’s position — what to supply to Ukraine — is constantly changing. First they said "no, we won't give that," and then they did, "we won't give that," and then they did again. This is important and good, because at the beginning of the war, the Americans, in particular, did not trust the Ukrainian Armed Forces very much. And the Ukrainian Armed Forces have shown their ability to successfully, effectively, and creatively use these weapons, and to use these weapons responsibly. Therefore, now that the American military trusts the Ukrainian military more, there is closer cooperation. The Americans already understand that the Ukrainian military knows better what they need. I can say that I saw various weapons near the border with Belarus. And the Ukrainian military knows how to use all of them. Someone asked me, how ready is Ukraine for NATO? More than anyone else, because the Ukrainian military knows how to use weapons of different manufacture from different countries. I was amazed: there, next to Javelins, there is an old Soviet rocket launcher, which Ukrainian engineers and soldiers removed from some kind of pedestal, put it on a large truck, and somehow this installation started and works. It is simply unique.
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