Russians fled Chernobyl with radiation sickness, Ukraine says as IAEA investigates | Ukraine

The UN’s atomic watchdog is investigating Ukrainian allegations that Russian soldiers occupying the Chernobyl nuclear power plant left after receiving heavy doses of radiation.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it could not confirm the claims made by Ukraine’s state-owned power company Energoatom and was seeking an independent assessment.

Energoatom said the Russians had dug trenches in the forest inside the exclusion zone at the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, and that troops “freaked out at the first sign of illness” which “s manifested very quickly” and began to prepare to leave.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk also claimed that Russian troops digging trenches in the forest were exposed to radiation, but this has not been independently verified.

Some reports suggest the soldiers are being sent to a special medical facility in Belarus after driving tanks through the “dead zone” around the nuclear power plant, kicking up radioactive dust.

Russian forces have also withdrawn from the nearby town of Slavutych, where Chernobyl workers live, Energoatom said.

The IAEA said it was preparing to send its first “assistance and support mission” to Chernobyl in northern Ukraine in the coming days.

Although Russian soldiers took control of Chernobyl soon after the Feb. 24 invasion, Ukrainian staff at the plant continued to oversee the safe storage of spent nuclear fuel and oversee the concrete-encased remains of the exploded reactor. in 1986, causing the worst nuclear accident in the world.

In a separate article, Energoatom said that the Russian side had officially agreed to return responsibility for protecting Chernobyl to Ukraine. He shared a scan of a document signed by people he identified as a senior Chernobyl official and the Russian military official assigned to guard Chernobyl. Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the document.

Ukraine has repeatedly expressed security concerns about Chernobyl and demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops, whose presence for some time prevented staff turnover.

Asked to comment on the accounts of Chernobyl personnel, the Russian Defense Ministry did not respond.

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