Kremlin can organise an accident at ZNPP, AFU should hit the Russian Federation. Interview

September 19, 2022

In response to the successful counteroffensive of the Ukrainian defense forces, the aggressor country — Russia — will conduct "punitive" operations: strike critical infrastructure facilities in Ukraine. If the troops of the invaders are forced to leave the Zaporizhia NPP, they can go as far as organise an accident at this nuclear facility and blame Ukraine for it.

The success of Ukraine’s Armed Forces on the battlefields has significantly reduced the number of Western sceptics who previously tended to come to terms with the aggressor, in particular, at the expense of Ukraine's interests. Now the issue of neutralising the threat of shelling Ukraine from the Russian territory is on the agenda. The best way is to destroy positions in the enemy territory with artillery fire.

This opinion was produced by the co-director of foreign policy programmes, coordinator of international projects of Razumkov Centre, military expert Oleksiy Melnyk in an exclusive interview with OBOZREVATEL.

— The counteroffensive of the Defence Forces is underway. What is your prediction, can they reach the whole state border of Ukraine?

— In principle, they have already reached the borders. It is clear that Ukraine has no military interests beyond these borders. Therefore, the task now is to gain a foothold on the border. And then the question will be, how to neutralise the threat of shelling coming from the Russian Federation.

Earlier, when such shelling was conducted from the territory of Ukraine, none of our foreign partners questioned Ukraine’s right to respond. Now, there may be a period of adaptation to the new realities, because, as we know, it was a restraining factor initially in providing Ukraine with offensive weapons, and later — with long-range missiles.

The only way to neutralise the threat of shelling from the Russian territory is to target their positions with fire.

— Can we now, after the successful counteroffensive, hope for stronger military support from our Western partners?

— I don't know if we can hope for more support, but in any case, the success of the counteroffensive convinces those who tended to take a more cautious position, when it seemed that the war was becoming positional.

If there were no prospect of resolving this conflict in the near future, then, of course, there would be voices saying that it is necessary to seek some kind of a painful compromise, perhaps, surrendering Ukrainian territories, because this war was not good for anyone. Not only Russia and Ukraine are suffering, but also the European economy, the world is facing a global threat of a famine, etc.

But now that Ukraine has shown the feasibility of resolving the conflict in the way it insists on, namely, a military defeat of the enemy, this will effectively repel the arguments of the compromise-seekers with Putin. Therefore, it is obvious that we can hope for at least steady support.

— What is your opinion of the prospects of liberation of the, so to speak, "old" occupied territories — Donbas and Crimea? After all, we understand that it will be more difficult to liberate them than those occupied recently.

— The occupied territories should not be segregated, but there are indeed certain peculiarities concerning the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and Crimea.

Regarding the so-called separate regions of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, I don't see any obstacles for crossing the demarcation line that existed from 2014 till 2022. There will be no reservations if Ukraine has sufficient strength to press an advance.

For Crimea, obviously, much larger forces and much larger reserves will be needed. We may use other approaches or strategies for Crimean de-occupation.

— How do you think the aggressor may respond to the counteroffensive of the Ukrainian defence forces? Do you think that they may try to recapture the liberated territories, and do they have the resources for some success on the battlefield?

— Obviously, we have already received an answer to the question about the Russian intentions and capabilities, even if it is not complete. For example, Russia's reaction to Ukraine's counteroffensive in Kharkiv region. It once again confirms that Russia has not abandoned its plans. At least, what they call the political goals.

Russia's ability to counterattack is limited. We cannot say that it is absent, but it is significantly impaired. Indeed, Russia will try to counterattack where they may see that Ukrainian defences can be penetrated or broken.

In addition, they will try to carry out punitive operations, like those we have seen in recent days, such as strikes on critical infrastructure facilities, primarily — power engineering, in order to complicate the winter season for Ukraine.

In addition, there is a very dangerous zone around the Zaporizhia NPP. Apparently, Russia is preparing something like an improvised nuclear strike there by creating conditions for an accident at a nuclear facility. This threat is real, it may be implemented if Russia is forced to leave this facility.

In my opinion, there is a huge risk that Russia will try to mine or disrupt some vital infrastructure supporting the Zaporizhia NPP safety in order to simultaneously inflict maximum damage on Ukraine and blame our country for it.

Tetiana Haizhevska


Oleksiy Melnyk

Co-Director, Foreign Relations and International Security Programmes, Coordinator of International Projects

Born in 1962 in Khmelnytsty Rgn


Royal College of Defence Studies, London, UK (2007)

Air Field Operations Officer School, Biloxy, MS, US (2001)

Squadron Officer School, Montgomery, AL, US (1994)

Defence Language Institute, San Antonio, TX, US (1994)

Chernihiv Higher Military Air Force Academy, Ukraine (1984)


1980 – 2001 — Air Force Active Service (Cadet, Instructor Pilot, Flight Commander, Squadron Commander, Deputy Air Force Base Commander, Participant of two UN peacekeeping operations, Lt.Colonel (Ret)

2001 – 2004 — Razumkov Centre

2004 – 2005 — State Company Ukroboronservice

2005 – 2008 — Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, Head Organisational and Analytical Division — First Assistant to Minister of Defence

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