Nuclear engineer Liudmyla Kozak was on the inside of an overnight shift for 12 hours at a dysfunctional Chernobyl plant when Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 and workers heard loud explosions from the edge of an area called the exclusion zone around the site.
As the military plane zipped over its head and the sound of battle drew nearer, Kozak and his colleagues realized that the next shift of workers would not arrive to release them as scheduled that morning.
By noon, “we saw on our monitors that some uninvited guests crept in,” Kozak, 45, told Reuters in Slavutych, a town near the Belarusian border where Chernobyl staff live.
Workers will witness the most dramatic event at the plant since the 1986 nuclear disaster, whose 36th anniversary was marked by a vigil in Slavutych on Tuesday.
After fighting with Ukrainian troops around a still -radioactive plant, Russian troops had taken control of its territory by the evening of the first day of the invasion – part of Moscow’s land, sea and air strikes on Ukraine that were the largest attacks on a European country since World War II.
“They arrested us, then let us go back to our workstations after long negotiations. They said we could work, no one would bother us,” Kozak said. “We carry out their orders, try not to conflict with them or get involved in conflict – not to provoke a bigger conflict.”
As the day went on, Ukrainian authorities and the International Atomic Energy Agency repeatedly demanded the release of tired staff, who operate radioactive waste facilities.
Kozak said the Russian military was using facilities on the plant’s territory as a base for attacks closer to Kyiv, which is 100 km (62 miles) from the plant.
“They went to Kyiv, did some shooting, then went back to the factory and rested, bathed, washed, ate food and slept, then went to Kyiv again,” he said, adding that the soldiers kept big. the amount of weapons and military equipment at Chernobyl.
Reuters could not independently verify his account. While the plant was occupied, Ukraine warned of Russian troops carrying weapons and ammunition into the exclusion zone – the area around Chornobyl that is normally closed to anyone not working there or having special permits because of radiation risks.
On April 26, 1986, a sudden power surge during a reactor system test destroyed Unit 4 of the nuclear power station at Chornobyl. Accidents and ensuing fires release large amounts of radioactive material into the environment, US. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said. Britannica called it the worst disaster in the history of nuclear power generation.
Kozak did not see a Russian military withdrawal in late March. Earlier, after 25 days in the occupied factory, he and other workers were allowed out and other staff took their places.
“My shift took 600 hours instead of 12 hours,” he said with a tired smile.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by AGRASMARTCITY staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)