Capture of Chernobyl

Part of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

51°16′N 30°13′E / 51.267°N 30.217°E / 51.267; 30.217Coordinates: 51°16′N 30°13′E / 51.267°N 30.217°E / 51.267; 30.217Result Russian victory and subsequent withdrawalTerritorial
changes Russia captures the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant; withdraws in April 2022Belligerents  Russia
Supported by:
 Belarus[1]  UkraineUnits involved Russian Armed Forces
National Guard of Russia National Guard of UkraineCasualties and losses None 169 captured[2] 300 civilians captured
  • v
  • t
  • e
2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine
Kyiv offensive

Northeastern Ukraine campaign

Eastern Ukraine campaign
Donbas offensive
Eastern Ukrainian counteroffensive

Southern Ukraine campaign
Southern Ukrainian counteroffensive

Other regions
Naval war
Spillover and cross-border incidents
Resistance

Possibly related

During the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone was captured[3] on 24 February (the first day of the invasion) by the Russian Armed Forces,[4] who entered Ukrainian territory from neighbouring Belarus and seized the entire area of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant by the end of that day.[1][5][6] On 7 March, it was reported that around 300 people (100 workers and 200 security guards for the plant) were trapped and had been unable to leave the power plant since its capture.[7] On 31 March, it was reported that most of the Russian troops occupying the area had withdrawn, as the Russian military abandoned the Kyiv offensive to focus on operations in Eastern Ukraine.

Background

A security checkpoint in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, 2010

The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 released large quantities of radioactive material from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant into the surrounding environment.[8] The area in a 30 kilometres (19 mi) radius surrounding the exploded reactor was evacuated and sealed off by Soviet authorities.[9]: 27 [10] This area was formalised as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone; its boundaries have changed over time.[11] Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, this area became part of newly independent Ukraine[12]: p.4–5 : p.49f.3  and was managed by the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.[13]

Chernobyl is 130 kilometres (81 mi) north of Kyiv and the regional road PO2 connecting Chernobyl and Kyiv is in relatively good condition, thus creating a direct strategic corridor to Kyiv, which Russian forces could exploit to capture the capital.[1] The exclusion zone is located right on the border with Belarus, a Russian ally which allowed a military buildup in their territory.[1] On 16 February 2022, satellite imagery showed Russian troops building pontoon bridges over rivers on the Belarusian side of the exclusion zone, the Polesie State Radioecological Reserve.[14]

Attack and capture

At 7 o'clock in the morning on 24 February 2022, a scheduled shift change for the workers in the power plant was cancelled, the workers being informed that Russia had launched a full-out invasion of Ukraine, and that the plant was to be put on high alert. That morning, there were around 300 people within the exclusion zone, including nuclear staff, medical staff, firefighters, 169 National Guard of Ukraine soldiers, and four tourists.[15]

A few hours later, Russian forces that had been stationed in Belarus broke into the exclusion zone through the village of Vilcha.[16] By 14:00, they had reached the power plant's main administration office. In the following hours, the National Guard commanders and the staff administration negotiated a surrender with the Russian forces, and the Ukrainian government publicly announced that Russian forces had launched an attack on the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.[17]

By the end of the day, the Ukrainian government announced that Russian forces had captured Chernobyl and Pripyat.[4] Following the Russian capture of the exclusion zone, the American government announced "credible reports that Russian soldiers are currently holding the staff of the Chernobyl facilities hostage".[18]

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said "there had been no casualties nor destruction at the industrial site".[19] Russia later reported that it was "working with Ukrainians to secure" the site.[20]

Russian occupation

Staff that had been working when the power plant was captured were unable to leave during the Russian occupation, and continued to maintain the plant's operation.[21] The staff refused several requests by the Russian forces to be interviewed on Zvezda, a TV channel owned by the Russian Ministry of Defence.[15] Russian forces set up a number of security checkpoints throughout the station and kept the staff under close surveillance.[22]

On 9 March 2022, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba said that the power supply of the Chernobyl NPP was damaged, it had lost power, and the diesel generator backup systems only had enough fuel to support cooling operations for 48 hours, so there was a danger of radiation leaks.[23] The risk was uncertain, but Russian military operations had already caused nuclear risks when they caused a fire in the takeover of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.[24][25] Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claimed that the National Guard of Russia was running a "joint operation" with local workers and surrendered Ukrainian soldiers to maintain the containment operations of the Chernobyl NPP.[26]

The IAEA released a statement expressing concern about the situation, but considered that the disconnection did not pose an immediate critical risk to operations, considering that the large volumes of water allowed sufficient cooling without electricity. Nevertheless, the agency recognised that lack of electricity was likely to deteriorate radiation safety, specifically through the increased workload and stress on the 210 personnel working without shift changes at the site. The IAEA has also expressed concern about the interruption of communications and the capacity of personnel to make decisions without undue pressure.[27] On 10 March 2022, it was reported that all contact was lost.[28]

On 18 March, Russian forces attacked Slavutych, the town constructed to house workers at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant following the disaster. The battle lasted for nine days, resulting in a Russian victory. On 20 March, Russian forces allowed some of the power plant's staff to leave and return home, in a swap with volunteers of staff that had been outside of the plant when it was captured to replace them.[15]

Potential radiation exposure

Reuters reported that the Russian forces used the Red Forest as a route for their convoys, kicking up clouds of radioactive dust. Local workers said the Russian soldiers moving in those convoys were not using protective suits and could have potentially endangered themselves.[29] On 31 March 2022, a Ukrainian council member of the State Agency of Ukraine for Exclusion Zone Management claimed on his Facebook page that Russian troops were regularly removed from the exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl and taken to the Republican Scientific and Practical Center for Radiation Medicine and Human Ecology in Gomel, Belarus. This rumor led to further speculation in the press that the soldiers were suffering from acute radiation syndrome.[30] One Russian trooper was reported to have died due to radiation.[31] On 6 April, images and videos of trenches, foxholes and other defensive structures at the Red Forest surfaced on the internet and news outlets.[32][33]

Local workers and scientists said Russian troops looted radioactive material from the laboratories.[34]

Russian withdrawal

Wikinews has related news:
  • Russia withdraws from Chernobyl in Ukraine
Ukrainian soldier raises flag in Pripyat following the withdrawal, 3 April 2022

On 29 March, Russian Deputy Minister of Defense Alexander Fomin announced a withdrawal of Russian forces from the Kyiv area,[35] and on 1 April the State Agency on Exclusion Zone Management announced that Russian troops had completely withdrawn from the Chernobyl NPP.[36]

Following the Russian withdrawal, staff at the power plant raised the Ukrainian flag back over the plant.[21] IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi announced that the IAEA would be sending a support mission to the plant "as soon as possible."[37] On 3 April, Ukrainian forces re-entered the exclusion zone.[15]

Following the return of Ukrainian control, significant damage to parts of the plant's offices was noted, including graffiti and smashed windows. The Washington Post further estimated that around 135 million US dollars worth of equipment had been destroyed, namely computers, vehicles, and radiation dosimetres.[38]

Reactions

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the Russian capture of the zone a "declaration of war against the whole of Europe".[39]

Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, was quoted as saying that it was a "totally pointless attack",[6] and "the condition of the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant, confinement, and nuclear waste storage facilities is unknown".[40] The International Atomic Energy Agency stated that there were "no casualties nor destruction at the industrial site" but that it was "of vital importance that the safe and secure operations of the nuclear facilities in that zone should not be affected or disrupted in any way".[19][41]

Analysis

The approach from Belarus via Chernobyl to Kyiv

In the greater picture of the Kyiv offensive, the capture of Chernobyl could be considered a waypoint for Russian troops advancing towards Kyiv. Ben Hodges, former commanding general of the United States Army Europe, stated that the exclusion zone was "important because of where it sits... If Russian forces were attacking Kyiv from the north, Chernobyl is right there on the way." Former American Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, Eurasia Evelyn Farkas said that the Russian forces "want to surround the capital" and that they "certainly don't want loose nuclear material floating around" in case of a Ukrainian insurgency.[42][43]

The exclusion zone is important for containing fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986; as such, Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs adviser Anton Herashchenko said that "if the occupiers' artillery strikes hit the nuclear waste storage facility, radioactive dust may cover the territories of Ukraine, Belarus and the EU countries".[39] According to BBC News, monitoring stations in the area reported a 20-fold increase in radiation levels, up to 65 μSv/h.[44] For comparison, the average person is exposed to 0.41 μSv/h from background radiation. At 65 μSv/h it would require more than a month of continuous exposure to meet the conservative yearly exposure limit for US radiation workers.[45] This does not account for inhaled or ingested radioactive particles, which increase exposure rates. Claire Corkhill of the University of Sheffield stated that the increase was localised and was due in part to "increased movement of people and vehicles in and around the Chernobyl zone [that] will have kicked up radioactive dust that's on the ground".[44]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d Coakley, Amanda (24 February 2022). "Lukashenko Is Letting Putin Use Belarus to Attack Ukraine". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on 24 February 2022. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  2. ^ Cotovio, Vasco; Pleitgen, Frederik; Blunt, Byron; Markina, Daria (9 April 2022). "Ukrainians shocked by 'crazy' scene at Chernobyl after Russian pullout reveals radioactive contamination". CNN. Archived from the original on 12 April 2022. Retrieved 13 April 2022.
  3. ^ Mohling, Judith (11 March 2022). "Peace Train: It's time to bid nuclear power plants goodbye". Colorado Daily. Archived from the original on 2 April 2022. Retrieved 3 April 2022.
  4. ^ a b "Chernobyl power plant captured by Russian forces -Ukrainian official". Reuters. 24 February 2022. Archived from the original on 24 February 2022. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  5. ^ "Chernobyl nuclear plant targeted as Russia invades Ukraine". Al Jazeera. 24 February 2022. Archived from the original on 24 February 2022. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  6. ^ a b "Russian forces seize Chernobyl nuclear power plant". BBC News. 25 February 2022. Archived from the original on 25 February 2022. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  7. ^ Tobias, Ben (7 March 2022). "Ukraine war: Chernobyl workers' 12-day ordeal under Russian guard". BBC News. Archived from the original on 9 March 2022. Retrieved 7 March 2022.
  8. ^ "Chernobyl Nuclear Accident". International Atomic Energy Agency. 14 May 2014. Archived from the original on 11 June 2008. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  9. ^ Marples, David R. (1988). The Social Impact of the Chernobyl Disaster. Introduction be Victor G. Snell. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-02432-1. LCCN 88018314. OCLC 489602767. OL 2041623M – via Internet Archive.
  10. ^ Ritzer, George; Atalay, Zeynep (1 March 2010). Readings in Globalization: Key Concepts and Major Debates. John Wiley & Sons. p. 272. ISBN 978-1-4051-3273-2. Archived from the original on 3 March 2022. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  11. ^ Bondarkov, Mikhail D.; Oskolkov, Boris Ya.; Gaschak, Sergey P.; Kireev, Sergey I.; Maksimenko, Andrey M.; Proskura, Nikolai I.; Jannik, G. Timothy; Farfán, Eduardo B. (October 2011). "Environmental Radiation Monitoring in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone – History and Results 25 Years After". Health Physics. 101 (4): 442–485. doi:10.1097/HP.0b013e318229df28. PMID 21878769. S2CID 34630968. Archived from the original on 2 April 2022. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  12. ^ Petryna, Adriana (2002). Life Exposed: Biological Citizens After Chernobyl. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-09019-1. Archived from the original on 30 January 2022. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  13. ^ Economic Commission for Europe (17 December 1999). Environmental Performance Reviews: Ukraine – First Review. United Nations. p. 50. ISBN 978-92-1-004057-0. Archived from the original on 3 March 2022. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  14. ^ Roblin, Sebastien (16 February 2022). "Russian Troops Just Built A Pontoon Bridge Near Chernobyl". Forbes. Archived from the original on 13 March 2022. Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  15. ^ a b c d Kamenev, Maxim (22 June 2022). "How Russia took over Chernobyl". openDemocracy. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  16. ^ "Near Chernobyl, Residents Recall Brutality Of Russian Invasion". RFE/RL. 24 June 2022. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  17. ^ "Russian troops breach area near Chernobyl, adviser to Ukrainian minister says". Reuters. 24 February 2022. Archived from the original on 24 February 2022. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  18. ^ Restuccia, Andrew (24 February 2022). "White House Calls for Release of Any Hostages at Chernobyl Site". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 24 February 2022. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  19. ^ a b "IAEA Director General Statement on the Situation in Ukraine" (Press release). International Atomic Energy Agency. 24 February 2022. Archived from the original on 24 February 2022. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  20. ^ Karmanau, Yuras; Heintz, Jim; Isachenkov, Vladimir; Litvinova, Dasha (25 February 2022). "Ukraine's capital under threat as Russia presses invasion". Boston.com. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 20 March 2022. Retrieved 3 April 2022.
  21. ^ a b Vincent, Faustine (16 June 2022). "Chernobyl: The story of 35 days of Russian occupation". Le Monde. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  22. ^ "'No way out': Life under the Russians at Chernobyl". Radio France Internationale. 31 May 2022. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  23. ^ Kuleba, Dmytro [@DmytroKuleba] (9 March 2022). "The only electrical grid supplying the Chernobyl NPP and all its nuclear facilities occupied by Russian army is damaged. CNPP lost all electric supply. I call on the international community to urgently demand Russia to cease fire and allow repair units to restore power supply 1/2" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 10 March 2022. Retrieved 12 March 2022 – via Twitter.
  24. ^ "Live updates: Russian troops shelling nuclear power station". Associated Press. 3 March 2022. Archived from the original on 3 March 2022. Retrieved 4 March 2022.
  25. ^ "Update 14 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine" (Press release). International Atomic Energy Agency. 7 March 2022. Archived from the original on 10 March 2022. Retrieved 26 March 2022.
  26. ^ "Situation at Chernobyl NPP under joint control — Russian diplomat". TASS. 9 May 2022. Archived from the original on 13 March 2022. Retrieved 26 March 2022.
  27. ^ "Update 16 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine" (Press release). International Atomic Energy Agency. 9 March 2022. Archived from the original on 13 March 2022. Retrieved 26 March 2022.
  28. ^ Child, David; Gadzo, Mersiha; Najjar, Farah; Siddiqui, Usaid (10 March 2022). "Latest Ukraine updates: UN stresses 'urgent' need for talks". Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on 13 March 2022. Retrieved 11 March 2022.
  29. ^ "Unprotected Russian soldiers disturbed radioactive dust in Chernobyl's 'Red Forest', workers say". Reuters. 29 March 2022. Archived from the original on 29 March 2022. Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  30. ^ Cole, Brendan (31 March 2022). "Russian Troops Sickened by Contaminated Chernobyl Soil: Official". Newsweek. Archived from the original on 31 March 2022. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  31. ^ Kilner, James (1 April 2022). "Russian soldier dies from radiation poisoning in Chernobyl". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 1 April 2022. Retrieved 13 April 2022.
  32. ^ Kramer, Andrew E.; Prickett, Ivor (8 April 2022). "Russian Blunders in Chernobyl: 'They Came and Did Whatever They Wanted'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 13 April 2022. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  33. ^ Guenot, Marianne. "Ukraine shares video it says proves Russian troops dug trenches in Chernobyl, disturbing radioactive soil". Business Insider. Archived from the original on 12 April 2022. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  34. ^ Guenot, Marianne (1 April 2022). "Chernobyl scientists accused looters of stealing radioactive material from labs there". Business Insider. Archived from the original on 1 April 2022. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  35. ^ Qena, Nebi; Karmanau, Yuras (29 March 2022). "Moscow says it will curb assault on Kyiv, Chernihiv; Russian troops seen withdrawing". The Times of Israel. Archived from the original on 1 April 2022. Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  36. ^ Suliman, Adela; Francis, Ellen; Stern, David L.; Bearak, Max; Villegas, Paulina (1 April 2022). "Russian troops have withdrawn from Chernobyl, Ukraine agency says". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 1 April 2022. Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  37. ^ "UN Atomic Agency Chief Says He'll Lead Support Mission To Chernobyl 'As Soon As Possible'". RFE/RL. 1 April 2022. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  38. ^ Middleton, Joe (3 June 2022). "Inside Chernobyl nuclear plant devastated by Russian troops as $135m of equipment destroyed". The Independent. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  39. ^ a b Shabad, Rebecca (24 February 2022). "'This is a declaration of war against the whole of Europe': Zelenskyy warns Russia is trying to seize Chernobyl". NBC News. Archived from the original on 24 February 2022. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  40. ^ Griffiths, Brent D. (24 February 2022). "Russian troops seize Chernobyl's remnants after a battle, risking Western efforts to contain one of the world's most radioactive sites". Business Insider. Archived from the original on 25 February 2022. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  41. ^ Murphy, Francois (24 February 2022). "IAEA says Ukraine nuclear power plants running safely, no 'destruction' at Chernobyl". Reuters. Archived from the original on 24 February 2022. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  42. ^ Seitz-Wald, Alex (24 February 2022). "Why would Russia want to take Chernobyl?". NBC News. Archived from the original on 24 February 2022. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  43. ^ Mohammed, Arshad; Landay, Jonathan (24 February 2022). "Explainer: Why Russia and Ukraine are fighting for Chernobyl disaster site". Reuters. Archived from the original on 25 February 2022. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  44. ^ a b Gill, Victoria (25 February 2022). "Chernobyl: Radiation spike at nuclear plant seized by Russian forces". BBC News. Archived from the original on 25 February 2022. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  45. ^ "Ionizing Radiation Dose Ranges (Rem and Sievert charts)" (PDF). United States Department of Energy. June 2010. Archived (PDF) from the original on 20 January 2022. Retrieved 28 May 2018.

Further reading

  • v
  • t
  • e
Overview
General
Prelude
Background
Foreign relations
Southern Ukraine
Eastern Ukraine
Kyiv
Northeastern Ukraine
Russian occupations
Ongoing
Previous
Strikes on military targets
Potentially related incidents
Other
General
Attacks on civilians
Attacks on prisoners of war
Legal cases
States and
official entities
General
Ukraine
Russia
United States
Other countries
United Nations
International
organizations
Other
Public
Protests
Companies
Technology
Other
Impact
Effects
Human rights
Terms and phrases
Popular culture
Key people
Ukraine Ukrainians
Russia Russians
Other
  • Category
  • Commons
  • Meta-Wiki
  • v
  • t
  • e
Effects
Individuals
Locations
Organisations
Related topics
  • v
  • t
  • e
Reactors of
Power Stations
Active
Unfinished
Closed
Other reactors
Companies
Related topics
Category