Russian troops have withdrawn from Chernobyl, Ukraine agency says

Ukraine’s state-owned atomic energy firm, Energoatom, said in a statement on Telegram that all technological equipment at the plant and systems for monitoring radiation were “working normally” on Friday.


Areas with reported

Russian troop presence

Ukrainian areas

forces have retaken

palieski state

radioecological

Reserve

Control areas as of March 31

Sources: Institute for the Study of War and staff reports.

Areas with reported

Russian troop presence

Ukrainian areas

forces have retaken

Source: Institute for the Study of War March 31 control data

Areas with

reported Russian

troop presence

Ukrainian areas

forces have retaken

Source: Institute for the Study of War March 31 control data

The Chernobyl plant, the scene of a major 1986 disaster, was among the first strategic facilities seized by Russian troops at the start of their war on Ukraine in February. Its capture sparked international alarm and raised fears of a nuclear accident.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, who visited a different nuclear plant in earlier this week and traveled to Russia on Friday for talks with senior officials, described news of the Russian withdrawal from Chernobyl as “undoubtedly a step in the right direction.”

“We have been saying the plant needed to be operated by its own operators … under normal circumstances, which were not of course present when you had foreign troops,” Grossi said.

He told a news conference Friday the IAEA would send a mission “very, very soon” to Chernobyl, where he said radiation levels were “quite normal.” He said the agency’s staff would require secure routes to move around the conflict zone. He added that the IAEA also plans to establish a “rapid assistance mechanism,” which in the case of an emergency at a nuclear facility could quickly send a team to assess and help.

Large quantities of radioactive material contaminated the land around the Chernobyl nuclear site after the 1986 disaster. Today, an “exclusion zone,” where radioactive contamination is highest, covers about 1,000 square miles around the site.

Ukraine’s state-owned firm Energoatom said March 31 that all of the Russian forces had withdrawn from the Chernobyl nuclear power station. (Video: Reuters, Photo: Reuters)

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Thursday that Ukrainian officials informed it that Russian troops had, “in writing, transferred control” of the Chernobyl nuclear plant back to Ukrainian personnel.

The IAEA also said it has not been able to confirm reports that Russian troops had received “high doses of radiation” while stationed in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. The agency said it was “seeking further information in order to provide an independent assessment of the situation.” Grossi told reporters Friday the agency was aware of the claims but did not have any confirmation.

Russian troops were withdrawing toward the Ukrainian border with Belarus after announcing plans to leave the plant, Energoatom said in a statement Thursday. Russian forces also appeared to withdraw from the satellite city of Slavutych, Energoatom added, where many Chernobyl employees live. The claims could not be independently verified.

The Chernobyl zone, one of the most radioactively contaminated places in the world, has closed since 1986, although a small number of people still live in the area — mostly elderly Ukrainians who refused to evacuate or who after the evacuation of the area.

The building containing the exploded reactor from 1986 was covered in 2017 with an enormous shield meant to contain radiation still emanating from the plant. Robots inside the plant work to dismantle the destroyed reactor and gather up radioactive waste. It is expected to take until 2064 to finish safely dismantling the reactors.

Brittany Shammas contributed to this report.

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