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Wednesday July 17, 2024

Russia occupies Chernobyl staff town, confirms Kyiv

The IAEA said Saturday it was "closely monitoring the situation" after Ukraine's nuclear regulator informed it that the town had been seized by Russian forces

By AFP
March 27, 2022
A Ukrainian soldier walks past debris of a burning military truck, on a street in Kyiv. Photo: AP/file
A Ukrainian soldier walks past debris of a burning military truck, on a street in Kyiv. Photo: AP/file 

KYIV: Russian forces took control of a town where staff working at the Chernobyl nuclear site live and briefly detained the mayor, sparking protests, Ukrainian officials said Saturday.

"I have been released. Everything is fine, as far as it is possible under occupation," Yuri Fomichev, mayor of Slavutych, told AFP by phone, after officials in the Ukraine capital Kyiv announced earlier he had been detained.

Earlier, the military administration of the Kyiv region, which covers Slavutych, announced that Russian troops had entered the town and occupied the municipal hospital.

They also said that the mayor had been detained.

Residents took to the streets, carrying a large blue and yellow Ukrainian flag and heading towards the hospital, the administration said. Russian forces fired into the air and threw stun grenades into the crowd, it added.

It also shared on its Telegram account images in which dozens of people gathered around the Ukrainian flag and chanted: "Glory to Ukraine."

Later Saturday, Fomichev posted a video on Facebook saying that at least three people had died, without elaborating on what had happened.

"We haven't yet identified all of them," he added, but said that civilians were among the dead.

While they had defended their town, they were up against a larger force, he said.

The Chernobyl plant was taken by the Russian army on February 24 on the same day that Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine.

Some 25,000 people live in the town 160 kilometres (99 miles) north of the capital, built after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Saturday it was "closely monitoring the situation" after Ukraine's nuclear regulator informed it that the town had been seized by Russian forces.

The UN atomic watchdog said it was concerned about the ability of employees at Chernobyl to rotate and return to their homes to rest.

"There has been no staff rotation at the NPP for nearly a week now," the IAEA said.

The town's capture comes after the first staff rotation at Chernobyl plant last weekend since Russia took control.

About 100 Ukrainian technicians continued to run the daily operations at the radioactive site for nearly four weeks without being rotated.