Russian troops began leaving the Chernobyl nuclear plant after soldiers got “significant doses” of radiation from digging trenches at the highly contaminated site, Ukraine’s state power company said Thursday as heavy fighting raged on the outskirts of Kyiv and other fronts.
Energoatom, the operator, gave no immediate details on the condition of the troops or how many were affected.
But it said the Russians had dug in in the forest inside the exclusion zone around the now-closed plant, the site in 1986 of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.
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The troops “panicked at the first sign of illness,” which “showed up very quickly,” and began to prepare to leave, Energoatom said.
The Russians seized the Chernobyl site in the opening stages of the February 24 invasion, raising fears that they would cause damage or disruption that could spread radiation.
The workforce at the site oversees the safe storage of spent fuel rods and the concrete-entombed ruins of the exploded reactor.
The pullout came amid continued fighting and indications that the Kremlin is using talk of de-escalation as cover while regrouping and resupplying its forces and redeploying them for a stepped-up offensive in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine is seeing “a buildup of Russian forces for new strikes on the Donbas, and we are preparing for that.”
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