PHOTO: GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images
Russian troops have looted lethally radioactive material from two laboratories in Chernobyl after fleeing the site at the end of March, according to the Ukrainian government.“The occupants have stolen and destroyed 133 sources with a total activity of about 7 million becquerels [a unit of radioactivity],” a post by the State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management said on Saturday. “Even a fraction of this activity is lethal if handled unprofessionally or uncontrollably.”
Days after the initial invasion of Ukraine, Russian troops attacking from Belarus seized Chernobyl, the site of a highly radioactive explosion in 1986. During Russia’s monthlong occupation of the Chernobyl site, Russian troops forced employees taken hostage to work with little sleep and without adequate food, putting the site at risk. Russian soldiers also drove armoured vehicles without radioactive protection through the “Red Forest” —a radioactive zone—kicking up radioactive dust. However, on March 31, most Russian troops were reported to have left the site as part of a wider retreat after Russia had struggled to execute its invasion plan. According to the government office, the two laboratories damaged by Russian troops in Chernobyl were established to investigate the impact of radioactive materials.“Computers and office equipment were taken away, and laboratory equipment and measuring devices were broken or destroyed,” the post read.Officials are now working to determine the impact of Russia’s damage to the site. “The level of containment and safety of calibration dumps and radioactive contaminated fluids cannot be determined,” it said, “and the status of contaminated substances will be clarified after appropriate inventories and measurements have been made.”The location or potential impact of the looted objects is unknown.