What state is Chernobyl in after the withdrawal of Russia?

For nearly a month, Russian forces detained the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and scattered radioactive dust in its path.

WAR IN UKRANE – For the first time since the start of the war in Ukraine, journalists were able to visit Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant† They tell and testify of the passage of the Russian army, which left traces of radioactive dust and real chaos.

This Saturday, April 9, CNN and the BBC will reveal in reports the first echoes from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, held by Russian army soldiers from the first day of the war on February 24.

Although the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was inactive after the disaster of 1986, it was monitored for almost a month by Russia and the report of the journalists on the ground testifies in particular to the laxity and negligence of the troops of Vladimir Poutine in view of the high level of radioactivity in the environment of the plant.

“They went to the Red Forest and brought radioactive material with them on their shoes,” explains to CNN Ihor Ugolkov, a soldier. “Other places are fine, but the radiation went up because they lived here.” “They went everywhere, and they also picked up radioactive dust [quand ils sont partis]”, this Ukrainian soldier also adds.

However, when those in charge of the power plant want to reassure themselves about the general level of radioactivity in Chernobyl, they note, for example, that the part Russian soldiers to life experiences radiation slightly above what the World Nuclear Association describes as background radiation. Occasional contact in these places cannot be a health hazard, they say, unless there is prolonged exposure.

Rampage and assault

According to drone images, the Ukrainian army believes that Russian troops have even dug trenches around the Chernobyl zone, namely the Red Forest. A place that to this day remains the most contaminated area with nuclear radiation on Earth.

With most of the radioactive particles present on the ground, Ukrainian authorities are still reeling from the damage done by the Russian military by entering this particularly dangerous area. “It’s really crazy,” Ukraine’s Energy Minister German Galushchenko told CNN reporters. The same finds from Russian trenches and encampments in this area are relayed by the BBC

“I really have no idea why they did this (going to the Red Forest). We can see that they went there, the soldiers who went there have come back here and the radiation level has increased,” notes German Galushchenko.

However, the damage is not only radioactive in Chernobyl. During this month of scrutiny, Russian troops looted and looted the factory site, as stated by Volodymyr Falshovnyk, team leader in Chernobyl.

It also recounts the difficult conditions in which the factory’s personnel had to operate, under pressure from enemy soldiers and scant news from the rest of theUkraine† “Our relatives started calling and saying that the city had been taken over, that there were injuries and deaths. We asked the Russians what was going on and they said there were no regular Russian troops there, but we kept hearing that there was shelling,” the 64-year-old said.

“The Russian army searched all Ukrainian clothing, personal belongings, such as dogs, probably looking for money, valuables or laptops,” also explains Denys Monastyrskyy, Ukraine’s interior minister. “There has been looting here. The Russian army has stolen computers and equipment,” the minister also pointed out to reporters on the ground.

Satellite image from March 10, 2022 showing the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which was under Russian control for almost a month.  (Photo: Maxar Technologies – via AFP)

Satellite image from March 10, 2022 showing the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which has been under Russian control for almost a month. (Photo: Maxar Technologies – via AFP)

Satellite image from March 10, 2022 showing the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which has been under Russian control for almost a month. (Photo: Maxar Technologies – via AFP)

At the BBC, Valeriy Semonov, an engineer, gives another striking testimony: “We had to negotiate with them constantly and try not to insult them, so they let our staff manage the installation”. After a three-day power outage, Valeriy says he rushed to find fuel, without hesitating for a second to steal it from the Russian soldiers to keep the generator running.

“If we had lost electricity, it could have been catastrophic,” said Oleksandr Lobada, the station’s chief radiation protection officer. “I was not afraid for my life. I was afraid of what would happen if I wasn’t there to watch over the factory. I was afraid it would be a tragedy for humanity,” he added.

The ordeal of imprisoned Ukrainian soldiers

According to these echoes of Chernobyl, the most severe treatment was reserved for the approximately 169 soldiers of the Ukrainian National Guard who were present at the site during the Russian invasion† The factory’s security personnel are locked in a former Cold War nuclear bunker. According to Denys Monastyrskyy, they were crammed together in a room with no light and no communication with the outside world.

“They were held here for 30 days without adequate light or food. They were not allowed to go outside. On the last day they were taken from here in an unknown direction, the interior minister clarifies, today unfortunately we know nothing about their fate”. According to him, these men of the Ukrainian National Guard were brought to Russia as prisoners of war via Belarus, but he remains cautious and says he is not entirely sure at the moment.

This story about the underside of the Russian occupation in Chernobyl does not reassure the Ukrainian authorities, while another power plant of the four operating in Ukraine was in the hands of Russia. The Zaporizhzhya Power Plantlocated between Kiev and Donetsk, it was heavily attacked by Russian forces before taking control in early March.

“The situation there is also terrible, especially when you consider how they took Zaporizhzhya because they fired heavy weapons at the factory,” the energy minister told CNN. He also indicates that it is also possible that the Russian troops will return to Chernobyl.

“We understand that at any time today we must be ready for another attack on a nuclear power plant,” he adds, pleading that “this history will never repeat itself.”

See also on The HuffPost: Inside images of the attacked Ukraine nuclear power plant

This article was originally published on The HuffPost and has been updated.


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