Chornobyl worker recalls 600 hours under occupation

STORY: As military planes zipped overheard and the sound of fighting grew nearer, Kozak and her colleagues realized the next shift of workers would not arrive to relieve them as scheduled that morning.

The workers were about to witness the most dramatic events at the plant since the 1986 nuclear disaster.

The disaster's 36-year anniversary was marked by a vigil in Slavutych, a town near the Belarusian border where Chornobyl staff live, early on Tuesday (April 26).

After battling Ukrainian forces around the still radioactive plant, Russian troops had seized control of its territory by the evening of the first day of the invasion, what Moscow calls a "special operation."

As days went by, the Ukrainian authorities and the International Atomic Energy Agency repeatedly called for the release of the exhausted staff, who operate radioactive waste facilities.

Kozak said Russian troops used a facility on the plant's territory as a base for attacks closer to Kyiv, which is 62 miles from the plant.

"They went to Kyiv, did some shooting, then came back to the plant and rested, had a shower, did the washing, ate some food and slept, then off to Kyiv again," she said, adding that the soldiers stored a large amount of weapons and military equipment at Chornobyl.

Reuters could not independently verify her account.

Kozak did not see the withdrawal of the Russian soldiers at the end of March. Before then, after 25 days at the occupied plant, she and other workers were allowed to leave and other staff took their places.

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