The sudden, deafening beep of a radiometer reverberated throughout the room as a Ukrainian soldier entered. This is where Russian soldiers are living at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and radiation levels are now higher than normal.
There was no apparent source of radioactive material in the room, but Ukrainian officials say it came from small particles and dust that soldiers brought into the building.
Soldier Ihor Ugolkov explained: “They went to the Red Forest and brought radioactive material back with their shoes. “Other places are fine, but the radiation is up here, because they’ve lived here.”
CNN has had exclusive access to the power plant for the first time since it was under Ukrainian control.
Plant officials explained that levels inside the room used by Russian soldiers were only slightly higher than what the World Nuclear Association describes as natural radiation. One-time exposure will not be dangerous but repeated exposure will be hazardous to health.
“They went everywhere, and they also got some fallout on them [when they left]”, Ugolkov added.
It was an example of what Ukrainian officials say was the lax and careless behavior of Russian soldiers when they were in control. the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster. The area around Chernobyl, specifically the Red Forest, remains the most nuclear contaminated area on the planet, with most radioactive particles present on the soil.
Ukrainian officials have released drone footage of what they say are trenches dug by Russian soldiers in that area, which are particularly contaminated with radiation. In a safe location, on the edge of that area, CNN saw a box of Russian military rations that had radiation levels 50 times higher than their natural value.
Russian soldiers organize Chernobyl for a month and is said to have been operating in contaminated areas most of the time.