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Chernobyl Worker Speaks Out After Plant Was Seized By Russians

Chernobyl Worker Speaks Out After Plant Was Seized By Russians

More than 200 workers were forced to stay at the site following Russia's invasion of Ukraine

An employee at Chernobyl has described what happened at the site when Russia invaded Ukraine and captured the nuclear power plant.

Mykola Pobiedin, foreman of the radioactive waste processing workshop at Chernobyl, was at the site after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced war on Ukraine and recalled the moment he heard an alarm that encouraged everyone to go to 'the bomb shelter'.

Workers abided by the alarm, at which point he described how the 'whole situation got clear'. More than 200 workers were forced to stay on site, and it wasn't until 20 March, almost a month later, that 100 were allowed to return to their homes.

The Chernobyl site was encircled by Russians.

Speaking to i by phone from Slavutych, a city built to house workers evacuated from the power plant following the 1986 nuclear disaster, Pobiedin described realising 'it was a seizure'.

“Then came the command ‘Everyone to the workplace!’ Well, then we started organising our life there somehow, adapting to the situation," he said.

Pobiedin explained the military 'did not enter the territory of the power unit', but instead controlled the situation by driving around the site in 'their armoured personnel carriers'.

“In other words, everything around us was encircled. People are armed, walking with machine guns. So, we did not make any resistance. And we couldn’t have done it. Especially against the tanks.”

The worker said meals were organised twice a day as they stocked up on the food products people had in their lockers, such as tea, coffee and cookies, and recalled how the 'first thing that ended was bread'.

The site of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The invading soldiers 'did not interfere' with the workers, Pobiedin said, but held 'some psychological pressure'. As they couldn't leave, employees were unable to stick to their usual routine of working for 12 hours before being replaced by workers on the next shift.

Instead, they were forced to work for 24 hours straight with one half-hour break, but staff attempted to keep up their spirits by listening to Ukrainian radio, which allowed them to stay connected to the outside world.

Only about 50 people have arrived at Chernobyl to replace the 100 workers who left, and Pobiedin expressed concern as he stressed the importance of rotating staff at the site.

“There may be some errors, some actions are not undertaken. A tired person would do a mistake and it will cause issues. If you are riding a bus in which the driver has not slept for days. What could it lead to? If Europe agrees to drive with such a bus driver, then let it be…”

Pobiedin expressed belief there should be a scheduled shift change implemented so people know how long they need to stay at the site and do not have to wonder if it is 'one day, 20 days or forever'.

In a statement addressing the situation, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine said information received from the power plant 'indicates that the operational personnel maintain the safety parameters... within the standard values'. "At the same time," the agency said, "the Russian military continue to grossly violate the radiation safety requirements and strict access control procedures at the NPP and in the Exclusion Zone, which leads to deterioration of the radiation situation at the site."

If you would like to donate to the Red Cross Emergency Appeal, which will help provide food, medicines and basic medical supplies, shelter and water to those in Ukraine, click here for more information 

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Ukraine, Russia, Chernobyl, World News