RADIATION in the Chernobyl nuclear exclusion zone has exceeded control levels after Russian troops stormed the area, Ukraine has warned.
Putin’s men took control of the site on Thursday, with the state of the nuclear storage facilities at the old power plant “unknown” at the time.
But data from automated radiation monitoring suggests gamma radiation dose rate control levels in the exclusion zone have exceeded safe levels.
Ukraine’s State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate blamed the spike on “disruption” caused by passing Russian forces.
He said “the large amount of heavy military equipment across the exclusion zone” had destabilized the topsoil at the sensitive site.
Officials warned that this had resulted in “the release of contaminated radioactive dust into the air”, but said the increase so far was “insignificant”.
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The country’s Interior Ministry said it was currently “not critical” for Kyiv, which is located about 20 miles from the disaster area.
It comes amid earlier fears that a direct hit on waste stores could spread a cloud of radioactive dust across the whole of Europe.
But they warned they were watching the increase closely as the dispute continued.
The statement adds that it is “currently impossible to establish the reasons for the change in the radiation background in the exclusion zone due to the occupation and military combats in this territory”.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov insisted levels remained normal.
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He said airborne troops were protecting the factory to prevent any possible “provocation”.
It comes just after Ukraine claimed Russian forces had taken workers at the former nuclear power plant hostage after a “fierce” battle.
The president’s office fears that his enemies are preparing to provoke the nuclear plant or “use the damage suffered in the attack to blame Ukraine”.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry coolly declared that the Russian attack “could cause another ecological disaster”.
Chernobyl “may happen again in 2022” if the war continues, he said.
The April 1986 reactor explosion and fire killed at least 31 people and sent a huge cloud of radioactive particles into the air.
It blew across Europe and rained thousands of square kilometres.
The Chernobyl site is still protected by a large exclusion zone where people can only visit for short periods to avoid high doses of radiation.
Last month, Ukraine sent reinforcements to the region, fearing the disused nuclear power plant could be targeted by Putin.
Jack Keane, a former US Army chief of staff, said Chernobyl “has no military significance” but is based on the shortest route between Belarus and Kyiv.
It is feared the siege was orchestrated as part of Putin’s plans to seize the capital as part of his “decapitation” strategy to take over.
US intelligence now fears Putin could topple Kiev in just 96 hours.
Disturbing footage from Thursday showed triumphant Russian soldiers standing guard outside the reactor in tanks and armored vehicles.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said it was following developments with “grave concern”.
They urged warring nations to avoid any action that might endanger Ukraine’s nuclear facilities.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Myhailo Podolyak said: “After the absolutely senseless attack of the Russians in this direction, it is impossible to say that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is safe.”
An estimated 190,000 Russian troops were deployed in and around Ukraine as the invasion began in the early hours of Thursday.
But Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the Kremlin “has failed to achieve any of its main objectives” after facing much fiercer resistance than expected.
Ukraine claims to have killed or captured 800 soldiers, destroyed 30 tanks and shot down seven fighter jets as its forces launched a bloody resistance against the Russians.