Former top defense official says Russia ‘extremely irresponsible’ in seizing nuclear plants


Former U.S. Under Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy on Sunday said Russian forces were “extremely irresponsible” in the way they seized nuclear plants in Ukraine.

“My primary concern is the way they went about this, which was incredibly irresponsible, shelling a nuclear power plant,” Flournoy told co-anchor Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul TapperThe Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by Facebook – Biden announces Supreme Court pick amid unfolding Ukrainian crisis Biden names Ketanji Brown Jackson, DC appeals court judge, to Supreme Court Hogan ‘certainly going to take a look’ at 2024 presidential bid MORE on CNN’s “State of the Union” when asked about the incident. 

“It was just by sheer luck that they didn’t actually breach the containment structure and create a radioactive release. So they’re being extremely irresponsible about this,” she added.

The former top defense official, who served for three years under the Obama administration, said Russian officials are trying to “take control of critical infrastructure, the energy, the gas for heating, water, food to, again, put the Ukrainian population under siege and try to break their will.”

Russia seized control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility in Ukraine on Friday. A fire broke out at the facility’s training center. The International Atomic Energy Agency, a United Nations watchdog, however, said the blaze did not release any radiation into the air.

Days earlier, Moscow captured the Chernobyl site, the location of the deadly 1986 nuclear disaster.

A senior defense official told reporters on Friday that the U.S. is “deeply concerned” about Russia’s near-term “intentions” after Moscow’s forces seized the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine said Russia’s attack on the plant was a “war crime.”

“It is a war crime to attack a nuclear power plant. Putin’s shelling of Europe’s largest nuclear plant takes his reign of terror one step further,” the embassy wrote on Twitter on Friday.

Russian forces are now reportedly closing in on another nuclear facility in Ukraine.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.) Linda Thomas-GreenfieldLinda Thomas-GreenfieldSunday shows preview: Russian invasion of Ukraine intensifies Russian forces closing in on another nuclear facility Energy & Environment — Russian takeover sparks nuclear jitters MORE told the U.N. Security Council that troops were inching closer to the Yuzhnoukrainsk nuclear plant, which is reportedly the second-largest such facility in the country.