All Russian troops that occupied the Chernobyl nuclear power plant have now left the site, officials said in kyiv, as heavy fighting continues to rage on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital and on other fronts.
“There are no more foreigners on the territory of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant,” Ukraine’s state agency in charge of the Chernobyl exclusion zone, Energoatom, said on Facebook.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, also confirmed it was told by Ukraine that Russian forces had ceded control of the power plant and “moved troop convoys”.
There was no immediate comment from the Russian authorities.
Although Russian forces took control of Chernobyl soon after the February 24 invasion of Moscow, Ukrainian personnel at the plant continued to oversee the safe storage of spent nuclear fuel and oversee the concrete-encased remains of the reactor that exploded in 1986, causing the world’s worst nuclear accident. .
#Ukraine informed the IAEA today that Russian forces controlling #Chernobyl Since February 24, the nuclear power plant has, in writing, transferred control of the nuclear power plant to Ukrainian personnel and moved troop convoys. https://t.co/DkBXEJpDu8 pic.twitter.com/guITblxwXP
— IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency (@iaeaorg) March 31, 2022
Earlier Thursday, Energoatom said those workers had reported that Russian forces were planning to leave the territory.
“The information is confirmed that the occupants, who seized the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and other facilities in the exclusion zone, left in two columns towards the Ukrainian border with the Republic of Belarus,” he said. he said in a statement.
Energoatom said Russian soldiers had received “significant doses” of radiation while digging trenches at the highly contaminated site. Troops “freaked out at the first sign of illness”, which “showed up very quickly”, and began to prepare to leave, he added.
In a separate online article, Energoatom said the Russian side had formally agreed to return responsibility for protecting Chernobyl to Ukraine.
He shared the scan of a document setting out such an arrangement and signed by people he identified as a senior member of the Chernobyl general staff, the Russian military official tasked with guarding Chernobyl, and others.
The authenticity of the document could not be immediately verified. There was no immediate comment from Russian authorities, who denied that his forces had endangered nuclear facilities in Ukraine.
“Continuation of negotiations”
Ukraine has repeatedly expressed its security concerns about Chernobyl and demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops, whose presence for some time prevented the rotation of personnel at the plant.
Earlier on Thursday, the head of Energoatom urged the UN nuclear watchdog to ensure that Russian nuclear officials do not interfere in the operation of Chernobyl and the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia, the largest of Europe, which is also occupied by Russian soldiers.
The withdrawal came amid continued fighting and indications that the Kremlin is using de-escalation talks as cover while regrouping and resupplying its forces, and redeploying them for a strengthened offensive in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine was witnessing “a build-up of Russian forces for further strikes on Donbass, and we are preparing for that.”
Meanwhile, a bus convoy headed for Mariupol in another attempt to evacuate residents of the beleaguered port city, after the Russian military agreed to a limited ceasefire in the region. A new round of talks aimed at stopping the fighting was scheduled for Friday.
The Red Cross said its teams were heading to Mariupol with medical supplies and other relief, and hoped to get civilians out of the beleaguered city.
Tens of thousands of people have managed to get out in recent weeks through humanitarian corridors, reducing the city’s population from a pre-war 430,000 to around 100,000 last week, but other efforts have been thwarted by the continued Russian attacks.
At the same time, Russian forces shelled the outskirts of kyiv, two days after the Kremlin announced that it would drastically reduce operations near the capital and the northern city of Chernihiv to “increase mutual trust and create the conditions for new negotiations.
Despite the fighting raging in these areas, the Russian military said it was committed to a ceasefire along the road from Mariupol to the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said 45 buses would be sent to pick up civilians who suffered some of the worst deprivation of the war.