(Washington) On the first day of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Russian forces began to withdraw from the Chernobyl nuclear base, a senior Pentagon official said on Wednesday.
Released at 5:06 p.m.
The senior official told reporters anonymously that the Russian army had begun to retreat from Gostomel’s airport in northwest Kiev, and that “in Chernobyl they were beginning to relocate themselves, leaving Chernobyl and heading for Belarus.”
“We think they’re leaving. I can not tell if they’re all gone,” he added.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has stopped receiving live data from Chernobyl since March 9. He was concerned on Sunday about the revenue shortfall of staff at the plant since March 20.
Plot No. 4 of the plant exploded in 1986, causing the worst civilian nuclear disaster in history. It is covered by double sarcophagus, one built by the Soviets and now damaged, the other, more modern, opened in 2019.
The other three reactors at the plant were gradually shut down after the 2000 disaster.
On February 25, the day after the start of the Ukrainian invasion, the Antonov military airport in Gostomel was attacked by Russian forces.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby pointed out that “less than 20%” of Russian forces preventing the Ukrainian opposition from advancing in Kyiv were “beginning to transform themselves” in the direction of Belarus.
“We hope they are converting themselves in Belarus. We do not have the exact number, but that is our preliminary estimate,” Kirby added at a news conference, adding that “none of the units appear to be leaving Ukraine’s.
“This is not a detail,” he noted. “If the Russians are serious about reducing the intensity, that’s what they say, they’ll send them home. But they didn’t.
Moscow, which says it wants to focus on the Donbass region, where the separatist areas of Donetsk and Luhansk are located, has promised to “drastically reduce (its) military action in the direction of Kiev and Chernivtsi” in the north of the country.
The shelling has not stopped yet, especially around the east of the country and Kiev, Kirby noted.