Kiev, Jan 26: Chernobyl, a small Ukrainian town, the world took notice of this town after 26th April 1986, after a ghastly blast at a nuclear power plant. Today amid a crisis with Russia, Ukraine is trying to defend the abandoned town of Chernobyl.
Amid the global attention around a potential invasion by Russia, Ukraine has sent its troops to guard against any incursion on the Chernobyl exclusion zone, The New York Times reported. The site where the world’s worst nuclear disaster took place is a potential entry point for Russia, the report said.
The isolated zone located in the northern part of Ukraine falls on the shortest route from Russia to its capital Kiev. The meltdown of a nuclear reactor happened in Chernobyl in 1986.
The site hosts ghost towns and fallow fields, decades after the nuclear disaster. The Ukrainian army is carrying weapons as well as equipment to detect radiation in the area, according to a New York Times report.
Lieutenant Colonel Yuri Shakhraichuk of the Ukrainian border guard service told The New York Times: “It doesn't matter if it is contaminated or nobody lives here.” He added, “It is our territory, our country, and we must defend it.”
The soldiers are required to wear a device around their necks which will check the levels of radiation. In case soldiers wander into a highly irradiated area, they will be taken off duty.
None of the troops have suffered exposure to high doses so far, Colonel Shakhraichuk told The New York Times.
The forces deployed in Chernobyl won’t be able to repel an invasion, they have been sent there to detect warning signs, Colonel Shakhraichuk further said.
The move to send an army to Chernobyl in view of the aggressive tactics adopted by Russia ignited emotional reactions from those who battled to control fire at the nuclear plant 1986.
Among them is Ivan Kovalchuk, a Ukrainian firefighter. "How can this be? We liquidated the accident together. For them to do this to us now just makes me feel sorry for people in Ukraine," he told The New York Times.
The town of Chernobyl is still partially occupied by workers who live on rotations to maintain the safety apparatus in place. One such worker told the New York Times, “We don’t know what will kill us first, the virus, radiation or war.”
Meanwhile, Russia has maintained that it has no intention of invading Ukraine and accuses the West of ratcheting up tensions in the region. The Kremlin has, however, reiterated its demand that Nato allies should remove their forces and weapons from sites near the former Soviet Republic - like Ukraine.