the forces of Russia declared that they were leaving Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the neighboring town of Slavutichaccording to a statement from the state-owned energy company Ukraine released this Thursday, 31. The company suggested that the reason for the departure would be the fear among soldiers with the radiation of the place.
the state company Energoatom said that its workers who still remain at the plant had earlier signaled that Russian forces were planning to leave the territory. “Information confirms that the occupiers, who took over the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and other facilities in the exclusion zone, left for the Ukrainian border with the Republic of Belarus“, he said in a statement.
According to the company, a small number of Russian soldiers remained in Chernobyl, but did not specify how many. Russian forces also withdrew from the nearby town of Slavutich, where the plant’s workers live.
In a separate online post, Energoatom said the Russian side had formally agreed to hand over responsibility for protecting Chernobyl to Ukraine. The company shared a scanned document setting out such an agreement and signed by individuals identified as a senior member of the Chernobyl team, the Russian military officer in charge of guarding the plant and others.
The press could not immediately verify the authenticity of the document. There was no immediate comment from Russian officials, who denied that their forces had jeopardized nuclear facilities in Ukraine.
THE International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also said that it could not confirm the information on the withdrawal, but said in a statement that it “is in close consultation with the Ukrainian authorities on the dispatch of the Agency’s first assistance and support mission to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the coming days. “.
Structure covering reactor 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, scene of the worst nuclear disaster in history Photo: Gleb Garanich/Reuters
Energoatom said it also confirmed information that Russian troops had built fortifications, including trenches in the so-called Red Forest – the most radioactively contaminated part of the area around Chernobyl.
As a result of the radiation concerns, “almost a riot began to form among the soldiers,” the statement said, suggesting this was the reason for his unexpected departure.
In the same note on Wednesday, the IAEA said it “was unable to confirm reports of Russian forces receiving high doses of radiation while in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The IAEA is seeking more information to provide an independent assessment of the situation.”
Ukraine has repeatedly expressed security concerns about Chernobyl and demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops, whose presence prevented the plant’s workers from rotating shifts for a while.
Earlier this week, workers at the site told Reuters that Russian soldiers had driven, without radiation shielding, through the Red Forest, raising clouds of radioactive dust. Asked for comment, the Russian Defense Ministry did not respond.
Earlier on Thursday, the head of Energoatom asked the nuclear watchdog UN that helps ensure that Russian nuclear authorities do not interfere with the operation of Chernobyl and the nuclear power plant at zaporizhzhiathe largest of Europewhich is also occupied by Russian soldiers.
Withdrawal of troops
The statement corroborated a Pentagon report published Wednesday night that Russian troops were withdrawing from the area around the defunct power plant in northern Ukraine, the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history and an area that Russian forces occupied for weeks.
Troops took over the plant near the Belarus border – where workers have protected the site from radiation since 1986 – at the start of the invasion. For a time, soldiers prevented the team responsible for keeping the plant safe from leaving their posts. This has created wider fears that the plant, which needs constant monitoring, could be compromised.
The IAEA had warned last week that recent bombings in the area could compromise workers’ ability to keep the site safe, as employees were forced to work 24-hour shifts for days on end.
The IAEA chief arrived in Ukraine on Tuesday to speak with government officials about the safety of the country’s nuclear facilities, which have been targeted by Russian forces.
In a statement on Wednesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency, an arm of the United Nations that sets safety standards for the world’s nuclear reactors, said there had been no staff turnover at the plant since March 21.
International monitors also expressed concern about the safety of a nuclear plant in southern Ukraine, where close fighting caused a fire in early March.