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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday that Russian forces had made "a declaration of war against the whole of Europe" by entering the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in northern Ukraine. (Photo: Ukrainian Presidency / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Reported Fighting Near Chernobyl Sparks Fears of Nuclear Disaster

"If Russia continues the war, Chernobyl can happen again in 2022."

Julia Conley

Update (12:45 pm ET):

The Ukrainians have reportedly lost control of the Chernobyl site after fighting broke out there.

"After a fierce battle, Ukrainian control over the Chernobyl site was lost," said Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of the former Chernobyl power plant on Thursday. "The condition of the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant, confinement, and nuclear waste storage facilities is unknown."

"It is impossible to say the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is safe after a totally pointless attack by the Russians," Podolyak told Reuters. "This is one of the most serious threats in Europe today."

Personnel at the site have reportedly been taken hostage.


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday that Russian forces have made "a declaration of war against the whole of Europe" by entering the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in northern Ukraine and fighting the country's troops there.

"Russian occupation forces are trying to seize the Chernobyl nuclear power plant," Zelensky said in a statement. "Our defenders are giving their lives so that the tragedy of 1986 will not be repeated."

The reported invasion of the area surrounding Chernobyl, the former power plant which was the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history, sparked fears of the spread of radioactive nuclear waste contained there underground.

"If the invader's artillery hits and ruins/damages the collectors of nuclear waste, radioactive nuclear dust can be spread over the territory of Ukraine, Belarus, and the [countries] of the E.U.," warned Ukrainian Interior Minister Anton Herashchenk.

The 1986 meltdown of a nuclear reactor at Chernobyl left the 1,000-square mile region surrounding it "one of the most radioactive places on Earth," according to the New York Times.

Dmytro Gumenyuk, a radiation safety expert based in Kyiv, told British news outlet i Wednesday that with a lack of high-precision weapons in the region, Ukrainian or Russian forces could accidentally hit "sensitive facilities" and "radiation could contaminate air, soil, and waterways, affecting not only Ukraine but also Russia and much of Europe."

"In 1986, the world saw the biggest technological disaster in Chernobyl,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry tweeted. "If Russia continues the war, Chernobyl can happen again in 2022."

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