As the site for the attack on the Ukrainian capital Kiev, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, one of the most toxic places on earth, would not be the best choice. But it did not seem to bother the Russian generals who occupied the area in the early stages of the war.
“We told them not to do it, it was dangerous, but they ignored us,” Valery Simeonov, chief security engineer at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, said in an interview.
Undeterred by security concerns, Russian forces dug bulldozers and tanks, ditches and bunkers – and exposed themselves to lingering harmful radiation beneath the surface.
On the way to the recently liberated nuclear power plant, where the worst nuclear disaster in the world took place in 1986, the wind blew dust on the roads and there were scenes of security being ignored everywhere, although Ukrainian nuclear officials say it did not trigger a major radiation leak. A month-long military occupation of Russia.
In a place a few hundred feet outside the city of Chernobyl where there were wide moats, the Russian army dug extensive illusions of sunken sidewalks and bunkers. The abandoned armored personnel carrier was sitting nearby.
Soldiers had camped for weeks in the radioactive jungle. When International nuclear safety experts They say they have not confirmed any cases of radiation sickness among veterans, as cancers and other potential health problems associated with radiation exposure will not develop after decades.
Mr. Simyonov said the Russian military had sent officials from the nuclear, biological and chemical divisions, as well as experts from Russia’s state nuclear company Rosatom, in consultation with Ukrainian scientists.
But Russian nuclear experts seem to have little power over military commanders, he said. The military appeared to be more interested in planning an attack on Kiev, after which they used Chernobyl as an escape route to Belarus.
“They came and did what they wanted,” he said in the zone around the station. Simyonov said. Although he and other Ukrainian nuclear engineers and technicians stayed on site by occupation, working 24 hours a day and unable to leave except for a shift change at the end of March, rooting continued.
The only phenomenon of inattention in the treatment of a site is not earthworks, it is toxic, it still has the potential to spread radiation beyond the borders of Ukraine.
In a particularly misguided move, a Russian soldier from the Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Safety Division picked up the source of Cobalt-60 with his bare hands at a waste storage site, exposing himself to so much radiation in a matter of seconds. Leaving the size of a Geiger counter, Mr. Simyonov said. It is not clear what happened to that person, he said.
The most important moment came in mid-March, when electricity was cut off in a cooling pool where nuclear fuel rods containing many times more radioactive material were spent in stores than were scattered in the 1986 disaster. Simyonov said. Concerns about the fire arose among the Ukrainians as the water cooling the fuel shafts boiled and exposed them to the air. Quickly rejected by experts.
As they retreated from Chernobyl, Russian troops demolished a bridge in the exemption zone and planted dense mazes of anti-personnel mines, trip wires and landmines around the defunct station. The Ukrainian government agency that manages the site said last week that two Ukrainian soldiers had set foot in the mines.
As a bizarre final sign of the division’s misguided adventures, Ukrainian soldiers discovered equipment and electronics thrown on the roads in the Chernobyl region. These were apparently plundered from cities deep within Ukraine and thrown out for obscure reasons in the final retreat. Reporters found a washing machine on the shoulder of a road outside the city of Chernobyl.