Amid an ongoing conflict and nuclear threats, workers at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant somberly laid flowers at a monument for the victims on Wednesday to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the worst nuclear disaster.
Amid the conflict with Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy used the day to reiterate his cautions about the threat of a new nuclear disaster, drawing comparisons between the 1986 Chernobyl accident and Moscow’s brief seizure of that plant and its radiation-contaminated exclusion zone after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Zelenskyy wrote in an English Telegram post that “last year, the occupier not only seized the (Chernobyl) nuclear power plant but also once again endangered the entire world.”
The plant experienced an explosion and fire on April 26, 1986, which resulted in the release of radioactive fallout into the atmosphere.
In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, dozens of people died, although it is unknown how many died from radiation exposure in the long run.
In the early morning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, thousands of tanks and soldiers rolled into the plant’s radiation-laden exclusion zone, churning up severely contaminated dirt from the facility.
Russian troops remained stationed at the shuttered factory between February and March last year. After they retreated from the Kyiv region, Ukrainian forces took back the plant.
Zelenskyy claimed that Kyiv had restored the security measures and scientific pursuits before the conflict. But he advised that subsequent actions.
Since seizing control of the facility early in the conflict, the Russian military has also been stationed at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in southern Ukraine, the largest in Europe and one of the ten most significant in the world.
Ukraine’s government has charged Russia with using the factory as a launching pad for attacks on adjoining Ukrainian-controlled areas.
The cities on the western bank of the Dnieper River, directly across from the facility, were pounded by intense Russian artillery fire, according to Ukrainian authorities on Tuesday.
The six reactors in the plant have all been turned off over the previous 12 months.
In his Telegram post, Zelenskyy stated, “We must do everything to give no chance to the terrorist state to use nuclear power facilities to blackmail Ukraine and the entire world.” The Zelenskyy office released.
On Wednesday, engineers and workers at the exclusion zone laid flowers at a memorial and were presented with awards by the environment minister, Ruslan Strilets.
Engineer Mykola Pobedin remembered the 25 days he spent under Russian control with dread. He had spent 35 years working at the station, but he ran into something he had never expected to see on the day of the invasion.
He added, “I saw a tank standing here, and the muzzle pointed at the station. I was heading to the office.” He remembered sleeping and eating little for the following weeks, with even bread running out.
More than 150 Ukrainian National Guard men taken by Russia during its seizure of the Chernobyl exclusion zone are still in Russian custody.