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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Guardian staff and agency

Russia paying wives of soldiers in Ukraine not to stage protests, says UK

A Russian woman sits on a bus stop in front of poster advertising military conscription
The MoD says Russian authorities are sensitive to ‘any protests related to those citizens mobilised in September 2022, who have now been at the front line for over a year’. Photograph: Yuri Kochetkov/EPA

Russian authorities are paying the wives of Russian soldiers not to protest against their long-running deployment after demonstrations in Moscow, the UK Ministry of Defence said.

The MoD said in its daily intelligence briefing that some women were being paid off while others had been discredited online.

It comes after protests from soldiers’ wives in November.

The MoD said in a tweet: “Research by independent Russia media outlets and comments by protesting wives themselves suggest that, in recent weeks, the authorities have likely offered increased cash payments to families in return for them refraining from protest.

“On 27 November 2023, one prominent online group for soldiers’ wives published a manifesto against ‘indefinite mobilisation’. On around 31 November 2023, the group was pinned with a ‘fake’ warning label – likely at the instigation of pro-Kremlin actors.

“The authorities are likely particularly sensitive to any protests related to those citizens mobilised in September 2022, who have now been at the frontline for over a year.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine said on Saturday that two power lines connecting its electricity grid to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant were cut overnight, putting the plant at risk of an “accident”.

The plant has been at the centre of fighting since it was captured by Russian forces last year, and both sides have accused each other of compromising its safety.

“Due to the complete blackout, the nuclear power plant switched to powering its own needs from 20 diesel generators,” Ukraine’s nuclear energy operator said.

It said the plant was on “the verge of a nuclear and radiation accident” before Ukrainian specialists were able to promptly restore off-site power.

Agence-France Presse was not able to immediately verify Ukraine’s version of events.

The plant’s Russian-installed operator confirmed it resorted to diesel generators overnight, but said that it had operated within safe limits and that no safety violations were reported.

The incident marks the eighth time the plant has been cut off from external power since the conflict began last year, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said.

“The most recent external power outage is yet another reminder about the precarious nuclear safety and security situation at the plant, which can be affected by events far away from the site itself,” the IAEA chief, Rafael Grossi, said.

“The IAEA continues to do everything it can to help prevent a nuclear accident. I also call on all parties not to take any action that could further endanger the plant,” he added.

Since last year IAEA officials have been on the ground monitoring safety at the plant, which requires constant maintenance to prevent overheating.

It stopped supplying electricity to Ukraine’s grid in September 2022, and has been repeatedly rocked by shelling and drone attacks throughout the 21-month conflict.

Agence-France Presse contributed to this report

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