Russian forces declared that they were leaving the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the nearby city of Slavutych, according to a statement Thursday from Ukraine’s state-run energy company.
The account supports a report from the Pentagon late Wednesday that Russian troops were withdrawing from the area around the defunct plant in Ukraine’s north, the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history and an area Russian forces had occupied for weeks. Russian forces seized the site near the Belarusian border, where workers have safeguarded nuclear waste since 1986, early in the invasion. For a time, they prevented the specialized staff required to keep the decommissioned plant safe from leaving their posts.
This created broader fears that the plant, which needs constant monitoring, could be compromised. The International Atomic Energy Agency warned last week that recent intense fighting in the area could jeopardize workers’ ability to keep the defunct plant safe, as employees were forced to work round-the-clock shifts for days on end.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived in Ukraine on Tuesday for talks with government officials over the safety of the country’s nuclear facilities, which have been targets for Russian forces.
Several groups of Russians marched toward the Ukrainian border with Belarus, according to a statement on Telegram from Energoatom, the Ukrainian state-run company that operates all four nuclear power stations in Ukraine.
A group of soldiers in Slavutych, where many of the workers live, was also withdrawing toward the border, although a small number of Russian forces remain at the nuclear site, Energoatom said. Fighting had intensified last week in Slavutych, which was built for evacuees from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
In a statement Wednesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency, an arm of the United Nations that sets safety standards for the world’s nuclear reactors, said that there had been no staff rotation at the plant since March 21. International monitors have also expressed concern about the safety of a nuclear power plant in Ukraine’s south, where nearby fighting caused a fire in early March.
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