Russia attacked Ukraine
On the night of February 24, in an emergency televised address, the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin announced that he was starting a military operation in the Donbass. The purpose of this “military operation” is the denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine. This was the official statement of the President of Russia… In fact, President Putin started a bloody war in Ukraine. On February 24, at 5am, the first shots were fired in Kyiv, Kharkov, Odessa and Mariupol, and other regions.
Many cities and villages have been destroyed, thousands of victims reported among the Russian and Ukrainian military. At least two thousand victims of Ukraine civilians have also been reported, although Russia claims that only military targets are under rocket, air, and shelling attacks. The Ukrainian army and citizens are valiantly fighting for the independence of their country. Just as it was common by the Soviet leadership in 1986, the world has seen lies and half truths being used in the conflict since 2014 Euromaidan which led to the occupation of Crimea and the Donbass region. Hopefully, the truth of this war in Ukraine will appear earlier than we had seen in Chernobyl where the facts were uncovered even years after the accident. During today’s Russian-Ukraine war, the Chernobyl exclusion zone again became an important center of events.
The Occupation of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
The Chernobyl Zone, especially the borders between Ukraine and Belarus were in the spotlight from the middle of February, when satellite images found a pontoon bridge crossing the river Pripyat in Belarus, just a few kilometers away from the Pripyat ghost town. The Chernobyl zone was closed to keep the tourists safe in case of an invasion on Friday 18th February. Just six days later, on February 24, the Chernobyl exclusion zone, and all the facilities of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, were taken under the control of Russian armed groups. The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is an important strategic area for several reasons. First of all, it is a symbol of the Soviet Union that actually led to the economic ruin of the Soviet Union (the liquidation works cost approximately a yearly budget of the USSR). Secondly, the Zone is located on the border with Belarus and through Chernobyl lies the shortest route to Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. It was believed amongst Ukrainian officials that nobody would attack Ukraine from the Belarus side straight into the radioactive territory.
The day after the capture of the territory in the Chernobyl Zone, an increased level of radiation was recorded. By lifting a layer of contaminated soil and dust with heavy tanks and armored trucks, passing through routes prohibited for movement, the invaders led to a deterioration in the radiation situation in the exclusion zone, which was recorded by the posts of the automated radiation system. The total danger level in the exclusion zone was not changed although the radiation level was 20-fold at some spots, and is still within the safe limits. The radiation consequences of the disturbance remained within its territory, with the exception of radioactive contamination carried out on military vehicles further to the inland of Ukraine. The radiation levels went down again after the military vehicles left the Chernobyl Zone.
Greenpeace Radiation Investigation in the Chernobyl Zone
For the first time since the beginning of the Russian invasion, independent measurements were taken on April, 28 by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). According to the IAEA, while there was increased radiation the levels did not pose a great danger to the environment or people. Greenpeace Germany is concerned that the IAEA is severely compromised in its role in nuclear safety and security in Ukraine by its ties to Russia’s nuclear state agency, ROSATOM, including its current IAEA Deputy Director Mikhail Chudakov, a long-term ROSATOM official.
The IAEA’s information so far is insufficient. The Ukrainian authorities are enabling the Greenpeace Germany research team to gather independent information about radiation safety in the region. A Greenpeace Germany investigation team working with Ukrainian scientists in Chernobyl has found radiation levels in areas where Russian military operations occurred to be at least three times higher than the estimation by the IAEA. In April 2022, the IAEA provided very limited data with assurances that radiation levels were “normal” and not a major environmental or public safety issue.
At one Russian camp near Yanov, radiation levels are usually 0.18 microSieverts per hour (µSv/h). Greenpeace said in a press release that levels were now 2.5µSv/h, at a height of 10cm. The level of radiation is considered to be safe up to 0.3 µSv/h
At a junction 1.5km from the former Russian road block and next to the Red Forest , which surrounds the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the dose rate was 7.7µSv/h. Greenpeace said this was « so much higher than that measured by the IAEA.
The investigation team in Chernobyl also documented that Russian military actions against essential laboratories, databases, and radiation monitoring systems have caused severe damage to the scientific infrastructure that was developed by the international scientific community. This includes damage to the lab equipment needed to study the impact of radiation on people and the environment, which threatens the safety of current and future generations.
The Chernobyl Power Plant under Russian control
All employees of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant were taken prisoner during the capture. 36 years have passed since the Chernobyl accident, and the workers of the Chernobyl exclusion zone are once again showing heroism. The official Facebook feed of the Chernobyl Power Plant says that « Under ‘no-rotation’ conditions, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant staff has been demonstrating high spirits and solidarity with each other, as well as huge responsibilities for their duties. Luckily, all of them are safe and sound. The plant’s systems are being operated without any faults. The stock of food is currently enough. A shift at the plant lasts for 12 hours, during which staff constantly stays on their workplaces – at the control panel, computer, piece of equipment, etc.”
After three and half weeks of occupation, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant employees who are staying on site of the seized plant have already been working non-stop for about 600 hours. They were physically and morally exhausted. Their night shift turned out to be a month long.
Only on March 20, Chernobyl NPP employees were partly rotated, and 64 people were finally able to go home. 46 people (professionals) volunteered to replace the evacuated personnel of the Chernobyl NPP to perform their duties and to ensure the functioning of the enterprise.
Only on March 31, Russian militaries left the territory of the Chernobyl NPP before 20:00 (Kyiv time), taking with them the National Guardsmen, who had been held as hostages since the capture of the Chernobyl facility.
For more details about the Chernobyl occupation by the Russians invaders, you can read our blog “39 Days Of Chernobyl Oсcupation”
You are welcomed to order our ONLINE Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant tour including the mysterious Control room no. 4. In this 90 minute tour you will dive deep into the story of the power plant that has changed the history of mankind forever. It’s streaming for you live from Kyiv. P.S. Russian customers are welcomed 😉
Chernobyl babushkas left alone
There are no victims or injured on the territory of the Chernobyl zone on the Ukrainian side. The Chernobyl zone is almost empty, only a few workers are around, mostly specialists taking care of the infrastructure. There are still around 100 elderly people called babushkas living in the Chernobyl zone. Many of them remember World War 2, for example Mikhailo Pavlovich who lives in Chernobyl, and was shot in the leg by a German fighter jet during an air raid on the boats on the river Pripyat when he was 6. Until today, he is grumpy and he does not want to see German people around.
Mikhailo Pavlovich, Valentina Borisovna, Ded Vasyl from Teremtsi and others were left alone and cut off food supply for 40 days during the Russian invasion. The grocery truck which was coming to the Zone every 2 weeks to provide groceries for the babushkas, as well as the tourists who were bringing food supplies, could not enter the Chernobyl zone. The phone lines and internet were cut off by the Russian troops and we could not get in touch with them. Thankfully they are fine – safe and sound. The lessons from WW2 learned by the Chernobyl babushkas taught them to keep their supplies always full, so they weren’t starving and had enough firewood. When Russian troops left, it was still almost impossible to bring some supplies to the Chernobyl Zone, as all bridges and roads were destroyed or mined. We faced a real challenge here. But as soon as the situation allowed, we were happy to visit them and deliver medicines and food packages. All of them are already looking forward to seeing you and treating to their pancakes with honey .
You can read more about our help to Chernobyl babushkas and humanitarian aid here.
If you would like to contribute, please send any amount by this PayPal link (you can use your credit and debit card). As with our 1% revenue promise, every penny from these funds will be used for help to Chernobyl babushkas and people from the Chernobyl zone in need.
The Chernobyl Tours will reopen
We are constantly monitoring the situation in Ukraine for you, and we deliver apolitic content, as we would rather spread hope than hate. This blog is constantly updated to provide accurate, and up to date information.
If you are planning a tour to Chernobyl, we will let you know by our newsletter when it will be reopened. Just download our free ebook 10 Myths and Truths about Chernobyl and you will receive regular updates.
We see the war going in three possible scenario:
- Quick peace. Ukraine and Russia will negotiate a peace treaty under conditions that will be a compromise of both sides. This scenario is basically a continuance of the talks from before the invasion that lead nowhere.
- Long war. Ukraine and its inhabitants are extremely loyal and brave. We see it on our Ukrainian team in which 90% of them have stayed in Ukraine and are ready to fight. Molotov cocktails are served for Russian “peacekeepers” everywhere and this can take months or years.
- Partial occupation. Putin may occupy only half of Ukraine and ask for demilitarization of this buffer zone, in order to keep not just Crimea, but also add Donetsk and Luhansk regions to the Russian federation.
Based on the scenarios, the Chernobyl zone will also be re-opened for tourists, and we will tell you when it will be completely safe to travel to Ukraine and to Chernobyl. After peace will be established, several weeks and months of rebuilding the infrastructure will take place – especially roads (at least one bridge on the way to Chernobyl from Kyiv was destroyed), airports, and ordinary life will start slowly. The Chernobyl zone administration will re-open the tourist visits only after being certain there is no risk for the tourists – including the risk of higher radiation. We believe the transportation, hotel, and restaurants around the Chernobyl zone will be available for tourists soon and your Chernobyl tour convenience will not be affected. Higher risk of security might affect the permit issuance. Just make sure you will plan your trip far in advance. With ChernobylX you have the comfort of rebooking or canceling the tour free of charge even 48 hours before the tour (15 days to cancel, 1 day to move the tour date for the Chernobyl nuclear power plant tours).
It might take a bit longer than you wished, so you just need to wait a bit longer for the Trip of your lifetime. Thank you for your patience.
Bonus from our Ukrainian team: Ready to fight
The ChernobylX team in Ukraine is stronger than ever before. Most of our team is staying in Kyiv or in Ukraine, ready to fight for their freedom. We are all amazed by your kind words of support, messages and care. Our dear Max, even went back from Paris to protect his grandma and grandpa. Our dear Olya is preparing snacks and food for the soldiers and volunteers. The list is long…You have heard of the heroic stories of the Snake island soldiers, Ukrainian president Zelensky staying in Kyiv…but there is one more story. A symbol.
On February 27, 2022 as a result of a Russian attack on the Gostomel airport, an AN-225 « Mriya » was burned. An-225 « Mriya » (Mriya means « Dream » in Ukrainian) was the largest and most lifting aircraft in the history of world aviation. In the propaganda media, Russian journalists scoffed that they had succeeded in destroying our dream of a free and independent Ukraine. This is not true. A free and independent Ukraine is not a dream, it is a reality that lives in the heart of every Ukrainian. Today, the Ukrainian people are united as ever before, and in this unity lies the strength and freedom of Ukraine. After the victory of Ukraine, not just the plane, but also the whole country will be rebuilt.
Слава Україні! (Slava Ukraine = Glory to Ukraine)