Russian troops ‘move away’ from Chernobyl as Putin’s forces reposition, US says

Russian troops have begun to withdraw from Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear site in Ukraine as part of the repositioning of Vladimir Putin’s forces, according to reports.

A US official told the AFP news agency that Russian soldiers were “moving away from the Chernobyl facility and heading towards Belarus”.

“We think they are leaving, I can’t tell you they are all gone,” they added.

Russian troops took control of the Chernobyl site, where radioactive waste is still stored, on the first day of their invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Staff at the former nuclear facility were reportedly held hostage and forced to work at gunpoint by Putin’s forces, who reportedly kicked up clouds of radioactive dust as they

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said some Russian troops were leaving from near the Chernobyl power plant, but it was unclear whether the departing troops were leaving the area. exclusion around the plant or surrounding towns.

Earlier, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Russian forces occupying the Chernobyl nuclear power plant must withdraw from the area after defense forces warned there was a risk of weapons fire causing an explosion at the site.

She said in a video posted on Telegram on Wednesday: “We demand that the UN Security Council take immediate steps to demilitarize the Chernobyl exclusion zone and introduce a special UN mission there to eliminate the risk repetition of a nuclear catastrophe”.

Ukrainian personnel continued to operate the Chernobyl site after Russian forces took control of the plant on February 24, the day Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine.

On Tuesday, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, visited Ukraine to meet with senior government officials on the provision of “urgent technical assistance” to ensure the security of the country’s nuclear facilities.

File photo of IAEA chief Rafael Grossi

(Lisa Leutner/AP)

Mr Grossi said in a statement: “We can no longer afford to waste time. This conflict is already causing unimaginable human suffering and destruction. The expertise and capabilities of the IAEA are needed to prevent it also leading to a nuclear accident.

Russia also began repositioning nearly 20% of its forces that had been stationed around kyiv, the United States said on Wednesday as troops attacked the outskirts of the capital with air and ground strikes.

But Pentagon spokesman John Kirby warned that Moscow should order the refitting and resupply of troops for redeployment, rather than sending them back to Russia. Some of the soldiers may have already moved to Belarus, he said.

“They’re leaving Kyiv and heading further north, away from the city,” Kirby told a news conference.

As kyiv was bombarded, the besieged city of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine was also attacked.

A Ukrainian soldier in trenches north of the capital kyiv

(Vadim Ghirda/AP)

It comes after Russia yesterday promised to scale back operations in the two cities, which the West dismissed as a ruse for Putin’s troops to regroup and potentially save face after suffering heavy casualties and destruction. setback during the invasion.

Some troops have also left the areas around Chernihiv and Sumy, which are located near kyiv in northern Ukraine.

At the press conference, Mr Kirby also said that Russian contractor Wagner Group had deployed around 1,000 mercenary fighters to the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, which Moscow has declared a priority in its alleged reduction in military operations.

Putin has said in the past that Wagner and other private groups do not represent or are funded by the Russian state, although he claims they have the right to operate provided they do not infringe not Russian law.

Last year, the European Union imposed sanctions on Wagner, accusing him of fueling violence, looting natural resources and destabilizing countries around the world.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky said his forces were preparing to defend against further Russian attacks in Donbass.

Peace talks have continued in Turkey “but for now there are only words, nothing concrete”, he said in a televised address.

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