Russia-Ukraine war: ‘Dangerous nuclear spiral’ warning as Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant hit


Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson announced further measures to support Ukraine in its war against Russia. Video / Mark Mitchell

The world could be heading for a horrifying nuclear showdown as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, an expert has warned.

According to US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, if Russian President Vladimir Putin isn’t reined in by the rest of the world, it could effectively give other dictators a “licence” to race to develop nuclear weapons.

“Russia’s invasion offers a preview of a possible world of tyranny and turmoil,” General Austin said at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada over the weekend.

“It’s an invitation to an increasingly insecure world haunted by the shadow of nuclear proliferation.

“Fellow autocrats are watching. And they could well conclude that getting nuclear weapons would give them a hunting licence of their own. And that could drive a dangerous spiral of nuclear proliferation.”

Ukrainian emergency service member stands next to a truck that carries the remains of a missile after a Russian attack in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Photo / AP
Ukrainian emergency service member stands next to a truck that carries the remains of a missile after a Russian attack in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Photo / AP

Russia has threatened the use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine several times since the invasion began in February, with General Austin claiming: “Putin may resort again to profoundly irresponsible nuclear sabre-rattling” if Ukraine continues to make progress against the invading forces.

Alarmingly, Austin’s warning has not come out of nowhere.

Earlier this month, a missile launched by North Korea – the 30th this year alone – sparked panicked evacuation warnings in nearby Japan, with the rogue nation’s recent barrage leaving the entire region on edge.

North Korea recently warned of “powerful measures” if the US didn’t stop carrying out military drills with partners including South Korea, with the statement widely seen as a clue leader Kim Jong-un might be planning his first nuclear test in half a decade.

It also followed a string of recent terrifying statements from the dictator, including that his country’s evolution into a nuclear power was “irreversible” and that North Korea was “completely ready to hit and destroy targets at any time from any location”.

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been hit by a series of explosions. Photo / AP
Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been hit by a series of explosions. Photo / AP

Meanwhile, US Senator Jim Risch of Idaho said he agreed with Austin’s assessment, especially with regards to Iran.

“If the Iranians got their hands on a nuclear weapon, there’s going to be a stampede of countries in the Middle East and other parts of the world that think they’ve got to have nuclear weapons to respond,” he told the publication.

“That is not a small concern. That is a big concern.”

The speculation comes after Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant – the largest of its kind on the continent – was hit by a fresh barrage of shelling over the weekend, prompting a grim warning from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) boss Rafael Grossi.

In a statement, Grossi said the latest round of blasts affecting the plant were alarming.

“Explosions occurred at the site of this major nuclear power plant, which is completely unacceptable,” he said.

“Whoever is behind this, it must stop immediately.

“As I have said many times before, you’re playing with fire!”

Grossi’s comments regarding the danger posed by blasts at the site – which is located just 500km from the scene of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster – have raised fresh fears of a potential nuclear disaster, with concern growing ever since the invasion began nine months ago.

So far, Russia and Ukraine are blaming each other after at least 12 blasts were recorded within a short period of time on Sunday morning – however, there have been no reports of any deaths, with IAEA experts in “close contact” with the site management at the scene.



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