Radiation levels at Chernobyl nuclear power plant have increased after Russian troops seized the area yesterday, Ukraine’s nuclear agency warned on Friday.
Russian forces took control of the defunct plant in a ‘fierce’ battle on Thursday, with the condition of its nuclear storage facilities said to be ‘unknown’ at the time.
Their capture of the plant sparked fears of a radiation leak that could cause a nuclear fallout in Europe, last seen when the reactor exploded in 1986.
Russian officials denied higher radiation levels had been recorded.
Radiation levels at Chernobyl nuclear power plant have increased after Russian troops seized the area yesterday (pictured), Ukraine’s nuclear agency warned on Friday
Pictured: Russian armoured vehicles park on roads near the Chernobyl plant, amid fears that damage to the facility could cause a radiation leak that would blanket Europe with fallout
Ukraine’s State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate said Friday that higher gamma radiation levels have been detected in the Chernobyl zone, but didn’t provide details of the increase.
It attributed the rise to a ‘disturbance of the topsoil due to the movement of a large amount of heavy military equipment through the exclusion zone and the release of contaminated radioactive dust into the air.’
Ukrainian authorities said that Russia took the plant and its surrounding exclusion zone after a fierce battle Thursday.
Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Russian airborne troops were protecting the plant to prevent any possible ‘provocations.’
He insisted that radiation levels in the area have remained normal.
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said it was told by Ukraine of the takeover, adding that there had been ‘no casualties or destruction at the industrial site.’
Radiation levels at Chernobyl nuclear power plant (pictured, file photo) have increased after Russian troops seized the area yesterday, Ukraine’s nuclear agency warned on Friday
Pictured: A map showing where Russian forces have struck in their invasion. Chernobyl lies in the north of the country, close to the border with both Belarus and Russia
The 1986 disaster occurred when a nuclear reactor at the plant 80 miles north of Kyiv exploded, sending a radioactive cloud across Europe.
The disaster occurred while Ukraine was part of the USSR, with Soviet officials initially playing down the disaster, slowing the response.
The damaged reactor was later covered by a protective shell to prevent leaks. The construction of the Chernobyl New Safe Confinement was completed in 2018.
Video on Thursday revealed Russian tanks and armoured vehicles standing in front of the destroyed reactor.
An official said Thursday Russian shelling hit a radioactive waste repository and an increase in radiation levels was initially reported.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said it is following the situation in Ukraine ‘with grave concern’ and appealed for maximum restraint to avoid any action that may put Ukraine’s nuclear facilities at risk.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Myhailo Podolyak said: ‘After the absolutely senseless attack of the Russians in this direction, it is impossible to say that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is safe.’
Presidential advisers meanwhile said President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was still in the capital Kyiv.
In this file photo taken on February 4, 2022 Servicemen take part in a joint tactical and special exercises of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ukrainian National Guard and Ministry Emergency in a ghost city of Pripyat, near Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
‘The base scenario of Russia’s special operation is clear. The sole goal – to take Kyiv and kill Ukraine’s authorities, President Zelenskiy personally,’ said an adviser to the Ukrainian presidential office, Mykhailo Podolyak.
Russia pressed its invasion of Ukraine to the outskirts of the capital Friday after unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases.
Troops and tanks are moving in from three sides in an attack that could rewrite the global post-Cold War security order.
Explosions sounded before dawn in Kyiv and gunfire was later heard near the government quarter as Western leaders scheduled an emergency meeting.
Ukraine’s president pleaded for international help to fend off an attack that could topple his democratically elected government, cause massive casualties and ripple out damage to the global economy.
Among the signs that the Ukrainian capital was increasingly threatened, the military said Friday that a group of Russian spies and saboteurs was seen in a district of Kyiv about 3 miles north of the city centre.
Earlier, the military said that Russian forces had seized two Ukrainian military vehicles and some uniforms and were heading toward the city to try to infiltrate under the guise of being locals.