On February 24, the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant was one of the first targets captured in Ukraine by Russian troops. The military took control of the plant while international concern spread that poor maintenance of the facilities would lead to a radioactive accident. Five weeks later, most of the Russian troops have left the area.
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“The occupiers, who seized the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and other facilities in the exclusion zone, marched in two columns to the border of Ukraine with Belarus,” Energoatom points out in a statement released by Telegram. The operator reports that the troops are also leaving Slavutych, a nearby town where plant workers normally live.
US intelligence reported Wednesday that Russian forces were beginning to withdraw from Chernobyl. Russia says the troop movements are part of a commitment to reduce attacks in this area. But Ukrainian government sources say the march is due to an unknown number of soldiers suffering from radiation.
The Red Forest, one of the most polluted spots on the planet
According to the agency, part of the Russian troops built “fortifications” and dug trenches “in the middle of the Red Forest, the most polluted of the entire Exclusion Zone” around the nuclear power plant.
The Red Forest is the name given to a wooded area that occupies about 10 km² around the Chernobyl power plant. It is named for the reddish color of its pine trees, which died instantly after absorbing a high dose of nuclear radiation in the serious accident at the plant in 1986. The place is considered one of the most polluted areas in the world.
Not surprisingly, the occupants received significant doses of radiation and panicked at the first sign of illness.
“It is not surprising that the occupants received significant doses of radiation and panicked at the first sign of illness. And it manifested itself very quickly. As a result, almost a riot broke out among the military”, adds Energoatom, noting that “this morning” the Russian troops announced to the plant personnel that they were leaving the facilities.
This Tuesday, Chernobyl workers quoted anonymously by Reuters reported that the Russian soldiers who seized Chernobyl on February 24 drove their armored vehicles without anti-radiation protection through a highly toxic area called the “Red Forest”, kicking up clouds of radioactive dust.
The two sources said that the soldiers in the convoy did not use any anti-radiation equipment. The second Chernobyl worker said that was “suicidal” for the soldiers, as the radioactive dust they inhaled could cause internal radiation in their bodies.
The number of soldiers who have gone to Belarus, how many may have been contaminated in the Red Forest and how many remain at the plant, where Energoatom has confirmed that “a small group” of Russian troops remains, has not been disclosed.
The Chernobyl nuclear power plant after the 1986 accident, one of the most serious of its kind, is not operational but requires control tasks to keep the waste refrigerated and to prevent a radioactive leak from occurring in its facilities.
Since the Russian invasion, the plant has suffered several blackouts and the UN nuclear agency denounced the situation of its workers, held for weeks and unable to take rest shifts.