KYIV (Reuters) -The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday decried as “very, very dangerous” Russia’s temporary occupation of the Chornobyl nuclear power station and offered to help Ukraine repair damage caused to the stricken plant.
Rafael Grossi, the IAEA’s director general, was speaking on the 36th anniversary of the world’s worst civil nuclear power disaster at the plant when its fourth reactor caught fire and exploded on April 26, 1986.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy denounced Russian behaviour at the site and said Moscow had shown total disregard for nuclear safety on the anniversary by sending rockets over Chornobyl and two other functioning nuclear power stations.
Russian troops moved into the highly contaminated “exclusion zone” surrounding the Chornobyl plant days after launching their Feb. 24 incursion. They withdrew late last month.
“The situation was absolutely abnormal and very, very dangerous,” Grossi told reporters outside the station 140 km (87 miles) north of Kyiv.
Zelenskiy, speaking in a late night address on Tuesday, said Russian troops had stolen equipment used to measure radiation.
Ukrainian officials earlier complained the troops had pulled heavy equipment through the zone, disturbing contaminated territory and sending up radioactive dust. The troops for a time prevented staff from leaving the station, where they oversee large amounts of spent fuel and other radioactive materials.
Speaking later in Kyiv after talks with Zelenskiy, Grossi said the IAEA and Ukraine would take on “special work” at Chernobyl to restore “all the capacities there and the infrastructure that was damaged in the past few weeks”.
Zelenskiy, in his nightly video, said the Russians’ conduct after taking over the plant meant “it appears they have no understanding what Chornobyl is at all”.
(Writing by Ron Popeski and David Ljunggren; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Richard Pullin)