By Marthe de Ferrer with AFP, AP
Fighting has broken out in Chernobyl as Russian soldiers try to seize the former nuclear power plant, Ukraine’s president has said.
Ukrainian soldiers are “giving their lives” to avoid a repeat of the 1986 nuclear disaster, said President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“Russian occupation forces are trying to seize the Chernobyl plant. Our defenders are giving their lives so that the tragedy of 1986 will not be repeated,” he said.
Minutes earlier, Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko announced that fighting was underway near the Chernobyl nuclear waste repository where Russian forces entered from Belarus.
“Troops of the occupiers have entered the area of the Chernobyl power plant from Belarus. Members of the National Guard protecting the depot are putting up fierce resistance,” he wrote on Telegram.
“If the depot was destroyed by artillery strikes from the adversary, radioactive dust would cover Ukraine, Belarus and EU countries,” he added.
The head of the Ukrainian armies previously indicated that “four ballistic missiles had been fired” from Belarus “in the south-west direction.”
The plant was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in April 1986, when a nuclear reactor exploded and spewed radioactive waste across Europe. The site lies 130 kilometres north of the capital of Kyiv.
Only 187 people formally live within the 30-kilometre zone around the power plant, known as the Exclusion Zone. However, the area has become an important ecological site in recent years.