The Kremlin on Monday dismissed reports that Russian forces may be planning to retreat from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.
Dmitry Peskov, a press secretary for Russian President Vladimir Putin, denied the speculation of a potential withdrawal during a briefing in Moscow.
“There is no need to look for some signs where they are not and cannot be,” Peskov told reporters, according to Russian news agency TASS.
The head of Ukrainian state-run nuclear energy company Energoatom over the weekend said he saw signs Russian forces could soon retreat from Zaporizhzhia.
Petro Kotin pointed to reports in Russian media suggesting it would be worth vacating the plant to benefit the Russian army.
“One gets the impression they’re packing their bags and stealing everything they can,” Kotin said, noting it was too soon to know for sure what Russia was planning.
Fighting around the Zaporizhzhia plant, including missile attacks, has drawn widespread concerns of a nuclear accident throughout the war, as the power station is the largest in Europe.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has sent inspectors to the power plant to assess damage and mitigate harm. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi met with Russian officials last week to discuss setting up a protection zone around the plant in an effort to prevent nuclear disaster, Reuters reported.
Russian military bloggers, who back Moscow, recently reported that Ukrainian forces were preparing to retake the plant and Russian forces would retreat, according to an analysis from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
ISW said it has not verified a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Zaporizhzhia region. But it was possible a continued narrative of a Russian retreat would “prepare the information space” for a withdrawal when combined with Russian accusations that Ukraine has shelled the power plant.