A new video has surfaced online showing Russian military vehicles inside a turbine hall connected to a nuclear reactor at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, where intense shelling has fueled fears of a nuclear disaster.
CNN has located and confirmed the authenticity of the video, which began circulating on social media on Thursday. It is not clear when the video was made.
The images show one of six turbine chambers on the western side of the nuclear power plant, in the southeastern city of Enerhodar. Each turbine hall is interconnected and built into a large building containing a nuclear reactor.
The vehicles, which appear to be standard Russian military trucks, are in the far western edge of the building on the ground floor, just over 130 meters from the reactor.
At least five vehicles can be seen in the video – one clearly marked with the pro-war symbol “Z”, with at least two tent-like structures nearby. Several pallets are assorted near the vehicles.
It is not clear from the video whether the pallets and tent-like structures are part of the Russian military or related to operations at the power plant.
Moscow has previously said that the only military equipment at the plant is related to surveillance duties. On Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed that satellite images “show that weapons, especially heavy ones, have not been placed on the territory of this station”.
CNN contacted the Russian Defense Ministry for comment on what is inside and around the military vehicles in the turbine room, but did not receive an immediate response.
Both Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of threatening nuclear terrorism, particularly around the factory.
Kiev has repeatedly accused the Russian armed forces of storing heavy weapons in the complex and using it as cover to carry out attacks, knowing that Ukraine cannot fire back without risking hitting one of the plant’s reactors. Moscow, meanwhile, has claimed that Ukrainian troops are targeting the site.
On Monday, the chairman of Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear power company, Petro Kotin, said Russia stored 14 “heavy military equipment units” in the “first power unit” and “six vehicles” in the “second engine room.”
Russian military vehicles have been absent from the factory since July 24, according to satellite images of the complex provided to CNN by Planet Labs.
It is unclear whether the Russian military trucks are being stored in the turbine room or whether they are using it as cover after a Ukrainian military attack on July 19. The attack targeted Russian military personnel in three tents just under 1,000 feet (over 300 meters) from one of the nuclear reactors.
The Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, has been under Russian control since March.
Attacks on the complex, which have escalated as the flare-up in southern Ukraine, has raised concerns about the specter of nuclear disaster, prompting the United Nations nuclear watchdog and world leaders to demand that a mission be allowed to visit the site and the damage.
But nuclear experts are eager to defuse some of the more alarming warnings, explaining that the greatest threat is closest to the factory itself and does not warrant warnings for all of Europe. Experts are particularly wary of comparisons to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster — the worst nuclear accident ever — of which a repeat is incredibly unlikely, they said.
According to Energoatom, Ukraine’s state-run nuclear power company, in recent weeks a shellfire at the plant has damaged a dry storage facility — where barrels of spent nuclear fuel are stored — as well as radiation monitoring detectors.
On Aug. 5, several explosions near the electrical switchboard caused a power outage and one reactor was disconnected from the grid, according to the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Grossi told the UN Security Council last week that the situation had worsened “to the point of being very alarming”.