- Russian troops took over Chernobyl on February 24, the first day of the invasion of Ukraine.
- The soldiers may have been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, according to reports.
- Ukraine retook control of the plant last week after Russian troops retreated from areas around Kyiv.
Russian soldiers seem to have had a laissez-faire attitude while stationed in Ukraine at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant – one of the most toxic places on Earth.
Since one of the worst-ever nuclear disasters occurred at the plant in 1986, it has been dangerously contaminated with radioactivity. Chernobyl was taken over by Russian forces on February 24, the first day of the invasion, prompting international concern. Ukraine retook control last week after Russia retreated from the areas surrounding Kyiv.
Valeriy Simyonov, the chief safety engineer at Chernobyl, told The New York Times that Russian troops who took over the plant “came and did whatever they wanted” in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. He said the Russian military brought its own nuclear experts to the plant but their advice was not always taken.
For instance, Russian troops dug into toxic soil and camped out for weeks in the radioactive forest, The Times reported, adding there have not been confirmed cases of radiation sickness but that some health impacts of nuclear exposures can take years to appear.
In another instance, a Russian soldier picked up cobalt-60, a radioactive isotope, with his bare hands, The Times reported.
—Defence of Ukraine (@DefenceU) April 6, 2022
Ukrainian officials shared video on Wednesday they said showed Russia dug trenches in Chernobyl’s radioactive “Red Forest,” calling it a “complete neglect of human life, even of one’s own subordinates.”
Energoatom, Ukraine’s state power company, also said Russian troops dug trenches and experienced signs of radiation sickness, prompting an investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency, a United Nations watchdog group.