- Russian soldiers gave up control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant earlier this month.
- Troops stationed there will “feel the consequences” of radiation poisoning soon, a Ukrainian official said.
- Yevhen Kramarenko said Russians dug trenches and drove into the most contaminated areas of the site.
Russian troops who seized Chernobyl will soon suffer the effects of radiation exposure after digging trenches in the nuclear zone, the head of the State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management said Wednesday.
Yevhen Kramarenko told reporters that Russian troops, who occupied the Chernobyl exclusion zone for five weeks, had dug trenches and shelters for their vehicles in an area known as Red Forest.
The Red Forest is a 1.5-square-mile pine forest that died as a result of radiation exposure shortly after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986. It remains the most contaminated part of the exclusion zone, according to Reuters.
“We believe very soon [the Russians] will feel the consequences of radiation that they have received. Some of them will feel it in months, some of them in years,” Kramarenko said at a press conference Wednesday. “But anyway, all of the servicemen who were there will feel it at some point,”
He also confirmed earlier reports of Russian soldiers driving around the Red Forest without any protective gear and inhaling clouds of radioactive dust.
Radiation poisoning can cause different effects depending on the strength and length of exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In more extreme cases, radiation poisoning can lead to internal bleeding and skin burns, as well as thyroid cancer and cardiovascular disease, per the CDC.
Russian troops left the exclusion zone at the beginning of the month after some of their soldiers “panicked” at the first sign of radiation illness, Ukraine’s state power company, Energoatom, said, according to The Guardian.
It is unclear exactly what their supposed symptoms were, although they “showed up very quickly,” Energoatom added.
The Russian troops have since gone to Belarus and Russia, Kramarenko said, adding that Ukrainian plant officials are now working on developing additional safety measures to “avoid in the future any events similar to what we had to happen.”
The power plant was fully decommissioned after the 1986 nuclear accident and the remaining work at the site is mostly directed toward decontamination.
Kramarenko said it is unclear how high radiation levels are around the site at the moment because there is currently no electricity.
“Until then we won’t understand the damage done,” he said.