Part of the seized Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is controlled by the Chechen armed forces, a Ukrainian military organization said on Sunday.
The forces in question, the so-called Akhmat Special Rapid Reaction Unit, are led by a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin: Chechen Ramzan Kadyrov.
“It is known that part of the station was recently controlled by a gang of Kadyrov (…) who placed equipment and weapons directly in the rooms of turbines No. 1 and No. 2,” said the National Resistance Center in a statement.
The center is a military organization designed to support and coordinate Ukrainian troops.
On Wednesday, Chechen leader Kadyrov wrote in a Telegram article that his unit was in Enerhodar, a town adjacent to the Zaporizhzhia plant. He accused the Ukrainians of firing “indiscriminately at the coastline of Enerhodar, its industrial zone and the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia”.
Remember: The Zaporizhzhia power plant, the largest such nuclear complex in Europe, was seized by Russian forces early in the war.
In its statement, the National Resistance Center also claimed that “Russia is trying to connect the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to its power system as soon as possible.”
“The occupiers are taking hasty steps to convert the ZNPP spent nuclear fuel storage system to Russian standards, as well as to adapt all ZNPP nuclear reactors to use Russian fuel assemblies,” the Center wrote.
CNN cannot independently verify these claims.
More context: The Chechen Republic is a region in the northern Caucasus of Russia.
Russian forces fought a brutal war for control of territory in the mid-1990s and early 2000s. Kadyrov was once a guerrilla fighter who fought against Russia before switching sides.
During the Second Chechen War, which coincided with the rise of Putin, Kadyrov helped Moscow wrest control of the Chechen Republic from separatist rebels.
Kadyrov has been accused by international and independent observers of serious human rights violations on his territory and beyond. He leads large paramilitary forces which, although officially part of the Russian security structures, are personally loyal to him.