Russian recklessness around Ukraine's nuclear sites has Norway telling its citizens to 'dust off' their fallout shelters

Soldiers sit inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
Ukrainian soldiers sit on top of a military vehicle parked outside the hotel in Prypiat, Ukraine on February 4.Volodymyr Tarasov/Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Image
  • Norway is telling its citizens to "dust off" their fallout shelters amid fear about Russia's attacks near Ukraine's nuclear sites.

  • The Norwegian defense minister said his country felt the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster for years afterward.

Norway is telling its citizens to "dust off" their fallout shleters amid fears Russia has been reckless with military operations around Ukraine's nuclear sites.

Odd Roger Enoksen, the Norwegian defence minister, told The Times of London that citizens have been told they will get a 72-hour warning to prepare their bunkers for use in case of emergency.

"Ukraine has the most production of nuclear power in Europe and if an accident happens, as with Chernobyl, we will all in western Europe be affected by that if the wind goes in this direction," Enoksen told The Times. He added that Norway noticed the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster for years afterward.

Enoksen's warning came amid news that Russia is pulling its forces out of Chernobyl after reportedly suffering from "significant doses of radiation." Ukraine's state nuclear agency said Russian troops dug trenches in the highly radioactive Red Forest — within Chernobyl's Exclusion Zone — where they fell ill and decided to retreat to the Belarusian border. Insider did not see independent evidence that soldiers had been affected by any symptoms of radioactive exposure.

After Russian forces captured Chernobyl in late February, Ukrainian workers were forced to remain on-site for weeks.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Russia's attacks around Ukraine's nuclear plants pose an "unprecedented danger" to those in Ukraine and in surrounding countries.

In a speech to the United Nations Board of Governors earlier this month, the IAEA's Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said Russia has had many "close calls" with attacks around Ukraine's nuclear plants — including one at Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant which caused a fire but "no release of radiation."

"We must avert a nuclear accident in Ukraine," Grossi said. "This time, if there is a nuclear accident, the cause will not be a tsunami brought on by mother nature. Instead, it will be the result of human failure to act when we knew we could, and we knew we should."

Ukraine's deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk has asked that an exclusion zone be set up around Chernobyl after the Ukrainian armed forces claimed that Russian munitions being stored there could explode.

"We demand that the U.N. Security Council immediately take measures to demilitarise the Chernobyl exclusion zone and introduce a special U.N. mission there to eliminate the risk of the repeat of a nuclear catastrophe," Vereshchuk said.

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