After seizing the Chernobyl nuclear power plant for weeks, Russian forces have evacuated the building but left behind scenes of destruction – including piles of excrement in every office, one worker claims.
Russian forces seized the nuclear power plant – which lies about 130 km north of Ukraine's capital, Kyiv – in February at the very start of the war.
After a month of holding employees hostage at gunpoint, the invaders have left but not without a final display of vulgarity.
Offices were trashed with hundreds of computers and radiation dosimeters smashed. Furniture and vehicles were trashed and items stolen.
And to top it all off, faeces and graffiti were left littering the rooms.
"The poop was the icing on the cake," deputy director of the Chernobyl Ecocenter Aleksandr Barsukov told the Wall Street Journal.
Harrowing accounts from inside Chernobyl
There were grave concerns when Russian forces captured Chernobyl, given it is one of the most radioactive sites on earth.
Thousands of tanks and troops rumbled into the forested Chernobyl exclusion zone in the earliest hours of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, churning up highly contaminated soil from the site of the 1986 accident that was the world’s worst nuclear disaster.
They dug trenches within sight of the massive structure which was built to contain radiation, even though just walking on the dirt is discouraged.
Russian forces flew over the long-closed plant, ignoring the restricted airspace around it.
Chernobyl was controlled by the Russian forces for five weeks and withdrew forces at the end of March.
In those five weeks, employees were sleeping on tables and eating twice a day. While shifts were allowed, the plant’s main security engineer, Valerii Semenov stayed on.
“I was afraid they would install something and damage the system,” he told the Associated Press.
He worked for 35 days straight, sleeping for just three hours a night.
Workers kept the Russians from the most dangerous areas, but in what Semenov called the worst situation he has seen in his 30 years at Chernobyl.
The plant was without electricity, relying on diesel generators to support the critical work of circulating water for cooling the spent fuel rods.
“It was very dangerous to act in this way,” said Maksym Shevchuck, the deputy head of the state agency managing the exclusion zone. He was scared by it all.
Russia's military effort is now concentrated in the eastern Donbas, seeking a decisive win after more than 100 days into the invasion.
Ukrainian and Russian troops have been fighting in the street in a battle for the industrial city of Sievierodonetsk.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia had more troops in the city but Ukraine's forces had "every chance" of fighting back.
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