Ukraine: Prystaiko confirms Russian troops in Chernobyl
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Russian troops have left the nuclear power plant Chernobyl after occupying it over a month ago, Ukrainian officials have claimed. It is believed troops abandoned the heavily contaminated site after being treated for radiation poisoning.
Ukraine’s state agency in charge of the Chernobyl exclusion zone, Energoatom, announced the news on Facebook: “There are no longer any outsiders on the territory of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.”
The state-owned firm had earlier claimed most troops had left with only a small number left behind.
Energoatom announced Russian soldiers got “significant doses” of radiation from digging trenches at the highly contaminated site.
The troops “panicked at the first sign of illness” which “showed up very quickly” and began preparations to leave, the agency added.
There was no immediate comment from the Russian authorities.
Though Russian forces seized control of Chernobyl soon after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion on February 24, the plant’s Ukrainian staff continued to oversee the safe storage of spent nuclear fuel.
The staff also remained to supervise the concrete-encased remains of the reactor which exploded in 1986 in the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Earlier on Thursday, Energoatom said those workers had flagged Russian forces were planning to leave the site.
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In a statement, they announced: “The information is confirmed that the occupiers, who seized the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and other facilities in the exclusion zone, have set off in two columns towards the Ukrainian border with the Republic of Belarus.”
On Thursday, the head of Energoatom urged the UN nuclear watchdog to help ensure Russian nuclear officials do not interfere in the operation of Chernobyl and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is also occupied by Russian soldiers.
This withdrawal took place as peace talks continued between Moscow and Kyiv in Istanbul.
Peace negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv will resume on Friday, a senior Ukrainian official has said.
However, Ukraine and Western allies have cast doubts on Russia’s commitment to the talks, with many noting there had been no real sign of the partial military pullback in northern Ukraine Moscow had promised, with some suggesting the Kremlin may be playing for time.
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