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Ukrainian authorities have accused Russia of destroying a laboratory at Chernobyl nuclear power plant which contained 'highly active' substances.
Since then, the plant has been subject to power outages, warnings of possible radiation leaks, and reports of workers at the plant being taken as hostages and forced to survive on just one meal and two hours of sleep a day.
Today, 23 March - which marks nearly a month since Russia invaded the country - Ukrainian officials have claimed that 'highly active samples and samples of radionuclides are now in the hands of the enemy'.
A radionuclide is a type of atom which is unstable due to having an excess of nuclear energy.
Officials have also reported that the lab - which was opened in 2015 and has been functional ever since - contained valuable and unique equipment, as per The Times.
Authorities stated that they 'hope' that the 'highly active samples' and 'radionuclides' will 'harm' the enemy opposed to 'the civilised world,' The Independent reports.
Energoatom, the state nuclear company, confirmed on Monday, 21 March that it is currently 'impossible to adequately respond to threats' because of the monitoring system being down and there being 'no data on the current state of radiation pollution of the exclusion zone's environment'.
Several forest fires were also reported as occurring in the plant's vicinity, yesterday, 22 March.
Ukraine's government accused Russia of having started the blazes. "Probably the fire was caused by the armed aggression of the Russian Federation, namely the shelling or arson," the statement read.
Alongside seizing Chernobyl, Russian forces also took over Europe's biggest power plant, Zaporizhzhia, on 4 March.
The State Inspectorate for Nuclear Regulation (SINR) reported that shells had been launched at the plant, causing a fire in a five storey training facility nearby.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy subsequently accused Russia of 'nuclear terrorism'.
Experts have warned that Russian troops' occupation of Chernobyl could risk a nuclear disaster.
Two former workers at the plant, Olena Pareniuk and Kateryna Shavanova told TIME that the lack of turnover of staff, and 'pressure caused by armed people' could easily lead to 'loss of control over the safety of the facility'.
The pair concluded that the 'main risk of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is not radiation, but Russian troops'.
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
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