Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says Russian forces are trying to seize the Chernobyl power plant, which is the site of world’s worst nuclear disaster.
Russian military forces entered the zone of the nuclear power plant and fighting there has raised fears that it could trigger a large-scale environmental disaster, Ukrainian officials said.
“Russian occupying forces are trying to take over the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Our soldiers are giving their lives so that the tragedy of 1986 does not happen again,” Zelenskiy said on Twitter.
He said Kyiv’s forces are fighting off Russian troops for control of the Chernobyl plant, which spewed radioactive waste across Europe when one of its nuclear reactors exploded in April 1986.
The plant, which lies 130 kilometers north of Kyiv, has been decommissioned, and the reactor that exploded has been covered by a protective shelter to prevent radiation from leaking.
Deputy Interior Minister Anton Herashchenko said earlier that Russian troops entered the zone of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant from Belarus.
The National Guard, which protects the storage of radioactive waste, is fiercely resisting, Herashchenko said.
“If as a result of the occupiers’ artillery strikes the nuclear waste storage facility is destroyed, the radioactive dust may cover the territories of Ukraine, Belarus and the EU countries,” he said.
Mykhaylo Podoliak, an adviser to the head of the president’s office, told a news conference that there was evidence that several Russian sabotage and reconnaissance groups wanted to commit “a terrorist act” at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and cause an environmental catastrophe.
“This significantly changes the picture of what is happening in the country,” Podoliak said.