Ukraine commemorates the 37th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster on Wednesday while denouncing the nuclear “blackmail” of Russia, which briefly invaded the site last year and still occupies another power plant, that of Zaporizhia, the largest in ‘Europe.
“37 years ago, the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant left a huge scar all over the world,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Telegram.
“ Last year, the (Russian) occupier not only invaded this nuclear power plant, but again exposed the whole world to the danger ” of a new incident, he continued. “We must do everything to leave no chance for the terrorist state to use atomic facilities to blackmail Ukraine and the world,” he added.
A reactor at the Chernobyl power plant, located about a hundred kilometers north of Kyiv, exploded on April 26, 1986, when Ukraine was still part of the USSR. The nuclear accident, considered the worst in history, contaminated large areas, especially in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. Much of Western Europe also suffered radioactive fallout.
On the first day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, February 24, 2022, troops from Moscow entered the highly radioactive exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl through Belarus and occupied the site of the no longer operating plant. since 2000. They stayed there for a month before retreating, ransacking, according to Kyiv, scientific equipment.
Since then, “ scientific and security enterprises in the Chernobyl zone have resumed normal operation ”, underlined Mr. Zelensky.
Kyiv, which does not rule out a new Russian attack from Belarus, has reinforced its defense positions along the northern border, including in the exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl within a radius of 30 kilometers.
In southern Ukraine, the Russian army still occupies the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, a huge complex, which previously produced 20% of Ukrainian electricity before Russia formally appropriated it last October via a decree. signed by Vladimir Putin.
This plant continued to operate during the first months of the Russian invasion, despite periods of bombardment, before being shut down in September.
Kyiv and Moscow have repeatedly accused each other of having bombed this site, these strikes raising the specter of a “new Chernobyl”.
The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, estimated on March 14 that we were “ on borrowed time ” regarding the “ safety ” of the Zaporijjia power plant, near which two mines recently exploded.