New photos from the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant show the ruthless destruction left behind by the Russian occupiers when they were driven out.
Hallways overflowing with litter, broken windows and mocking graffiti on the walls were among the scenes the Ukrainian defenders had to find.
In a room housing a fuse panel, live electrical wires appeared to have been left uncovered, suggesting that Putin’s troops paid little heed to the fire hazard.
While news crews were allowed into Chernobyl shortly after Ukraine’s recapture last month, it’s believed to be the first time since photographers have had full access to its labs and offices.
The site is no longer a functioning power plant, but it does store radioactive waste that requires 24-hour, 24-hour nuclear expert supervision for safekeeping.
After taking the area on February 24, the first day of the invasion, Putin’s forces locked his 170 Ukrainian defenders in the basement and forced his technical staff to continue operating under what appeared to be a chaotic new regime.
While teams from the Russian Atomic Energy Agency were called in, it later emerged that the Russian troops were ignorant of basic security procedures and kept Ukrainian personnel in a constant state of terror.
Drone footage released by Ukraine shows many of them stayed in trenches they dug in the so-called “Red Forest” behind the facility, one of the most radioactive places on earth.
Oleksiy Shelestiy, an electrical manager, told how he was constantly plagued by the possibility of an “accident” as employees were forbidden to go home and were exhausted.
Speaking to the AFP news agency on Monday, he said: “It was difficult mentally and emotionally.
‘[But] emotional and psychological pressure did not allow me to focus on it. We just tried to do our job and control all the parameters so that nothing can happen.”
Another engineer previously said Ukrainian employees must constantly placate the easily offended occupiers in order to be allowed to make decisions about the plant’s operation.
Valeriy Smonov told the BBC he was forced to steal fuel from the Russians to keep the generator running when power to the site was cut for three days.
He said: “If we had lost power it could have been catastrophic. Radioactive material may have been released.
“You can imagine the extent. I wasn’t afraid for my life. I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t monitor the facility. I was afraid it would be a tragedy for humanity.’
While Ukraine’s probes suggest the Russian occupiers were exposed to a “shocking” amount of radiation, experts say the general public has been spared any risks.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, later said that “an increase in radiation levels” had been detected in the area, but insisted the matter was under control.
He added: “The situation is not one that could be judged as a major threat to the environment and people at the moment we took these measures.”
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https://metro.co.uk/2022/06/01/first-look-inside-chernobyl-nuclear-plant-trashed-by-russian-troops-16751827/ First, look inside the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which was destroyed by Russian troops