Russia transfers control Chernobyl nuclear reactor back to Ukraine  

by mcardinal

Chris Lange, FISM News


The International Atomic Energy Agency reports that Russia has “in writing, transferred control” of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant back to Ukrainian personnel. Three convoys of Russian forces have already departed from the site and are heading toward Belarus, according to reporting by the Associated Press. The IAEA says it has been in close contact with Ukrainian authorities making preparations to deploy a first assistance and support mission to Chernobyl in the coming days.

The reason for the withdrawal has not yet been confirmed, but Ukraine’s state power company says Russian troops pulled out due to radiation exposure. The IAEA says it is gathering information and plans to provide an independent assessment of the situation at a later date.

Russian forces seized the defunct nuclear power station and all nearby facilities last month, sparking global fears of another massive catastrophe.

Alarm over the fate of the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in history has been steadily rising since Chernobyl was seized by Russian troops shortly after the Feb. 24 invasion, after which Ukraine’s Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants (ISPNPP) lost contact with the nuclear power station. Those concerns ratcheted up significantly this week with news that radioactive isotopes have gone missing from the site, meaning Russia now likely possesses the ingredients necessary to build a “dirty bomb” capable of spreading contamination over a widespread area. 

To make matters worse, wildfires have been burning in the nearby forest since March 11, where plants and fungi still harbor dangerous radioisotopes from the 1986 explosion. ISPNPP Director Anatoli Nosovskyi said the fires continue to burn and could become more intense as the weather warms, potentially resulting in a “significant deterioration of the radiation situation in Ukraine and throughout Europe.”

Ukraine, Russia resume talks today

Delegates from Kyiv and Moscow are expected to resume talks today by video, despite the fact that the Kremlin made clear this week that it had no intention of keeping its promise to scale back forces. Ukraine officials say Russian forces have killed 148 children during shelling and air strikes, fired 1,370 missiles, and destroyed 15 Ukrainian airports since the start of the invasion. 

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday said that Russian troops withdrawing from the north and center of the country are being redeployed to the southeast in preparation for new attacks, according to the AP report.

During his nighttime video address to the nation, Zelenskyy cautioned that, while it has been encouraging to see Russian troops pulling out of embattled areas near Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy, Ukrainians must not let up, noting that the withdrawal is merely a Kremlin tactic.

Zelenskyy, who spoke Thursday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and European Council President Charles Michel, continues to argue that the West needs to step up its aid.

“We need more support from our partners right now when Russian troops are concentrating additional forces in certain areas,” Zelenskyy said.

Defense Secy. keeping ‘options open’ on when to end U.S. troop deployments in Europe 

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby confirmed Thursday that roughly 20% of Russian forces to the north of Kyiv are repositioning, though their ultimate destination is not yet known. Kirby added that it is unlikely they are being sent home. 

“It is not exactly clear … where they’re going to go, for how long and for what purpose, but we don’t see any indication that they’re going to be sent home,” Kirby said at a briefing. The press secretary added that it is likely the troops are repositioning to Belarus where they will “refit, get resupplied and then be moved back into Ukraine, possibly into the Donbas region.

“It’s clear the Russians want to reprioritize their operations in the Donbas area [and] that could be one destination, but again, [it’s] too soon to know,” Kirby said, adding. “We don’t really have a good sense of it.” 

Meanwhile, American troops deployed to Europe will remain in the region indefinitely. Since February, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has sent nearly 20,000 troops into frontline NATO states of the Baltic Republics, Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia on temporary orders.  

“I think the Secretary wants to keep his options open,” Kirby said. 

Copyright 2022 Thomson/Reuters