The war in Ukraine: what is the state of Chernobyl after Russia’s withdrawal

The war in Ukraine – for the first time since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, journalists were able to visit the Chernobyl power plant. They tell and bear witness to the passing of the Russian army, which left behind its trails of radioactive dust and true chaos.

On Saturday, April 9, CNN and BBC unveiled reports of the first echoes from inside the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in the hands of Russian Army soldiers since the first day of the war on February 24.

Although it is no longer active, after the 1986 disaster, Russia had been in control of the Chernobyl nuclear site for about a month, and the accounts of journalists at the site in particular attest to the laxity and neglect of Vladimir Putin’s forces in the face of the high level. of radioactivity in the vicinity of the power plant.

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

While plant officials want to be reassured about the general level of radioactivity at Chernobyl, they note, for example, that the room that Russian soldiers use to live is exposed to slightly higher radiation than what the World Nuclear Association describes as natural radiation. According to them, accidental contact in these places cannot pose a health hazard, unless there is prolonged exposure.

Agitation and abuse

According to the drone photos, the Ukrainian military believes that Russian forces dug trenches around the Chernobyl area, namely the Red Forest. A place that remains to this day the most nuclear-contaminated area on the planet.

Most of the radioactive particles found on Earth, the Ukrainian authorities are still suffering from the damage caused by the Russian army by going to this particularly dangerous area. “It’s really crazy,” Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushenko told reporters on CNN. The same findings of the Russian trenches and camps in this area were reported by the BBC.

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

However, the damage is not only radioactive at Chernobyl. During this month of control, Russian troops ransacked and searched factory premises, as evidenced by Volodymyr Valchovnik, Chernobyl’s shift manager.

It also tells of the difficult conditions in which factory workers were forced to work, under pressure from enemy soldiers and scant news from the rest of Ukraine. “Our relatives started calling and saying that the city had been captured, that there were casualties and deaths. We asked the Russians what was going on and they said there were no regular Russian forces there, but we kept hearing that there was shelling,” the 64-year-old said.

Denis Monastirsky, Ukraine’s Minister of the Interior, explains that “the Russian army searched all Ukrainian clothing and personal belongings, such as dogs, and may have been looking for money, valuables or laptops.” “There was looting here. The minister immediately indicated to reporters that the Russian army stole computers and equipment.

On the BBC, Valery Simonov, an engineer, gave another startling testimony: “We had to constantly negotiate with them and try not to offend them, so that they let our employees manage the installation.” After a three-day power outage, Valery says that he hurried to find the fuel, and did not hesitate for a second to steal it from Russian soldiers to power the generator.

“If we had lost electricity, it would have been disastrous,” says Oleksandr Lubada, head of the station’s radiation protection department. I wasn’t afraid for my life. I was afraid of what would happen if I wasn’t there to watch the factory. I was afraid it would be a tragedy for humanity,” he adds to the British media.

The plight of captured Ukrainian soldiers

According to these echoes of Chernobyl, the harshest treatment was accorded to the approximately 169 soldiers of the Ukrainian National Guard who were at the site during the Russian invasion. Factory security personnel are locked up in a former Cold War nuclear bunker. According to Denys Monastyrskyy, they were crammed into a room with no light and no contact with the outside world.

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

This story about the underside of the Russian occupation at Chernobyl does nothing to reassure the Ukrainian authorities, while another power plant among the four active in Ukraine was in the hands of Russia. The Zaporizhia power plant, located between Kyiv and Donetsk, was heavily attacked by Russian forces before they took control of it in early March.

“The situation there is also horrific, especially considering how Zaporizhia was captured because they fired on the factory with heavy weapons,” the energy minister told CNN. He also notes that he does not rule out the return of Russian troops to Chernobyl.

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

See also on The HuffPost: Footage from inside the Ukrainian nuclear power plant that was attacked

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