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For the IAEA, the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chernobyl is “a step in the right direction”

Satellite image showing the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, then controlled by the Russians, on March 10, 2022.

“A step in the right direction. » This is how the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) hailed on Friday 1er April, the departure of all Russian troops from the Chernobyl nuclear site in northern Ukraine. This withdrawal, announced Thursday by the Ukrainian authorities, was confirmed to the Director General of the IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi, by Russian officials.

Troops from Moscow had occupied the premises since February 24, raising fears for the safety of the installations and severely hampering the activity of the staff. Ukrainian technicians worked continuously for almost a month, before a first rotation took place on March 20 and 21. The IAEA has also ceased, since March 9, to receive live data from Chernobyl.

While the Kremlin pledged on Tuesday to drastically reduce its military activities in the north of the country and around kyiv, Russian forces on Thursday transferred control of Chernobyl to Ukrainian personnel, through a written document, and three convoys of Russian soldiers left in the direction of Belarus.

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Returning from Ukraine and Russia, where he conducted discussions with the two parties, Rafael Mariano Grossi announced that experts from the UN agency should go to Chernobyl very soon. “There is a lot of technical work to be done on site, monitoring equipment must be reconnected”, he specified. According to the director of the plant, Valery Seïda, quoted in a press release from the Ukrainian atomic energy agency Energoatom, the installations were not damaged during the Russian occupation and “all equipment works”.

No confirmation on possible irradiations

Regarding rumors that many Russian soldiers were exposed to high doses of radiation in the contaminated area, the IAEA said it had no confirmation so far. According to Ukrainian sources, soldiers received “large doses” by digging trenches in the forest located in the exclusion zone created around the plant, after the nuclear accident of 1986.

Experts, however, expressed skepticism that individuals could experience acute radiation syndrome, as radiation levels in the area more than thirty years after the disaster were too low to cause such effects.

Rafael Mariano Grossi also clarified on Friday that the level of radiation around the plant was normal, although increases “localized” could have provided. “The movement of heavy vehicles could have caused such increases when the Russian troops arrived, it could also have been the case when they left”he explained.

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