Russian forces have destroyed a laboratory at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and seized highly radioactive samples, according to Ukrainian officials.
The Ukrainian state agency responsible for the Chernobyl exclusion zone said in a statement Tuesday that Russian forces “looted and destroyed” the lab, which was opened in 2015 with support from the European Union and worked to improve management of radioactive waste.
The laboratory, worth over $6.5 million, contained “highly active samples and samples of radionuclides that are now in the hands of the enemy, which we hope will harm itself and not the civilized world,” the agency said. Radionuclides are radioactive forms of chemical elements.
The Epoch Times has been unable to verify the allegation.
The facility had the capacity to provide a range of services at various stages of radioactive waste management, including classification of hazardous substances and their disposal.
The Russian military seized the decommissioned Chernobyl plant in the early days of the war.
Chernobyl is the site of the world’s worst nuclear meltdown, which took place in 1986. The exclusion zone is the contaminated area around the Chernobyl plant.
In an earlier development, Chernobyl staff were able to go back home after they spent roughly 600 hours at the facility following its takeover by Russian forces, according to Ukrainian officials.
And on Monday, Ukraine’s regulatory agency said that radiation monitors around the Chernobyl plant had stopped working.
Developments around the Chernobyl site in context of the Russia’s military operation have raised concerns about the safety of the site and have played into broader concerns that the conflict could go nuclear.
The issue surged to the forefront when Russian President Vladimir Putin put his country’s nuclear forces on high alert several days after ordering his troops to move against Ukraine.
Putin said the nuclear escalation was driven by hostile comments by leading members of NATO and by punishing Western sanctions, which he said were like a declaration of war.
The Russian president also issued an ominous warning that any attempts by other countries to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine would have catastrophic consequences for Europe and the world, a comment many analysts and officials interpreted as a threat to take the conflict nuclear.
The issue also grabbed headlines when Russian troops seized the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe after an attack that set an adjacent administrative building on fire, sparking fears of a nuclear disaster that could eclipse the one that took place in Chernobyl.
Russian military doctrine allows the use tactical nuclear strikes in conventional military conflicts under certain circumstances. If Russia feels it’s losing and faces the prospect of an “existential threat,” then it might resort to a nuclear strike, according to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.
Peskov made the remarks in a CNN interview in which he was asked whether he was confident Putin wouldn’t order a nuclear strike.
“We have a concept of domestic security and it’s public, you can read all the reasons for nuclear arms to be used. So if it is an existential threat for our country, then it [the nuclear arsenal] can be used,” Peskov told the outlet.
Earlier in March, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he “doesn’t want to believe” there would be a nuclear war over Ukraine, a statement some analysts interpreted as a veiled threat.
At the same time, Lavrov accused the West of being obsessed with the theme of nuclear escalation, claiming this, and not Russia’s actions, was a “cause for concern.”
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on March 14 that, “the prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility.”
From The Epoch Times