The dangerously radioactive site of the wrecked nuclear power station at Chernobyl has been left a total shambles by retreating Russian troops.
The Russians took control of the Chernobyl exclusion zone in the first few hours of the invasion back on February 24 .
They demanded the surrender of the 169 Ukrainian national guards based at the infamous plant and rounded up the hundred or so technical staff who monitor the vast concrete sarcophagus which has covered reactor number four since the catastrophic 1986 accident.
Around 1,000 Russian troops were stationed at the site for two months, digging trenches in the highly radioactive soil of the exclusion zone.
On one occasion, according to the site's chief safety engineer Valeriy Simyonov, a Russian soldier picked up a piece of highly-radioactive cobalt-60 with his bare hands.
In a few seconds, he was exposed to radiation so intense that it was too high for a Geiger counter to measure. It was not clear what happened to the soldier.
As the Russians moved into the exclusion zone, a convoy of heavy military vehicles drove through a highly toxic zone called the 'Red Forest', kicking up toxic dust as it went.
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"The convoy kicked up a big column of dust. Many radiation safety sensors showed exceeded levels,” one local told reporters.
Dozens of the Russian occupiers later suffered from acute radiation sickness and loaded onto buses and driven to a hospital in the Belarusian city of Gomel for treatment.
According to Chernobyl staff, some of the soldiers had no idea they were in a radiation zone, and hadn't heard of the 1986 disaster.
Russian soldiers who disobey orders 'stripped, tied up and taken away in trucks’
Kathryn Higley, a radiation health physicist at Oregon State University, told NPR: "You shouldn't go into a contaminated site and have people camping out and digging in the dirt."
She said that while there was only a low risk of any of the Russians developing cancer, the fact that the soldiers were stationed at Chernobyl without any training or protective equipment shows how careless Russian commanders were with their men’s lives.
The retreating Russians vandalised the site, scrawling graffiti on the walls and turning out filing cabinets of scientific data.
One Russian military ration box left behind at the site exhibited radiation levels 50 times above naturally occurring values, CNN reported.
The Ukrainians say the radiation detecting equipment abandoned by Russian soldiers, dated from the 1950s and didn’t work.
The Russians have left more than rubbish and graffiti though. The invaders reportedly scattered land-mines across the area. One Ukrainian and a number of wild animal have already been killed by them.
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