Russian forces took control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on Thursday after brief but fierce fighting with Ukrainian troops, officials have revealed.
Myhailo Podolyak, a presidential adviser, revealed to the Associated Press that Ukrainian officials do not know the current condition of the power plant or if it remains safe.
“After the absolutely senseless attack of the Russians in this direction, it is impossible to say that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is safe,” he said.
Just hours before, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced Russian troops were attempting to take control of the site.
“Our defenders are giving their lives so that the tragedy of 1986 will not be repeated. … This is a declaration of war against the whole of Europe,” he wrote in a tweet.
The notorious power plant was the site of a deadly meltdown in April 1986, which prompted the evacuation of roughly 50,000 people.
It is located approximately 80 miles north of the capital city of Kyiv and is only roughly 10 miles from the border with Russia.
During Thursday’s fighting, Russian shelling reportedly hit a radioactive waste repository and an increase in radiation levels was reported, a Ukrainian official said.
Russia’s seizure of control in the Eastern Ukrainian region comes only hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared war, claiming his forces would be undertaking a “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” its Western neighbor.
In the hours that followed, cities and villages across Ukraine were bombarded with shelling, explosions, air attacks and ground invasions. Dozens of people in Ukraine have been killed and many more injured, according to Aleksey Arestovich, adviser to the head of the country’s presidential office.
In the Luhansk region, Russian forces have taken control of the villages of Horodyshche and Milove, according to Ukraine’s State Emergencies Service.
Near Kyiv, Russian troops have seized control of the Antonov Airport, also known as the Hostomel Airport — which sits roughly 10 miles northwest of the capital city. Video footage showed several Russian helicopters as part of an air assault on the airport.