Russian forces seized control of the shuttered Chernobyl nuclear facility on Thursday after a battle with Ukrainian soldiers, according to Ukrainian officials.
“It is impossible to say the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is safe after a totally pointless attack by the Russians,” Podolyak told Reuters.
The takeover came just a few hours after fighting erupted inside the contaminated “exclusion zone” around Chernobyl, the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history.
In a statement posted on Facebook earlier Thursday, Ukraine’s deputy interior minister, Anton Gerashchenko, said Ukrainian forces were “fighting hard” to protect the site and the radioactive waste stored there, and voiced concern about the risk of nuclear fallout.
“If the invaders artillery hits and ruins/damages the collectors of nuclear waste, radioactive nuclear dust can can be spread over the territory of Ukraine, Belarus and the country of the EU!” Gerashchenko wrote.
Chernobyl is located just 10 miles south of the Ukraine-Belarus border.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed the fighting at Chernobyl in his own post to Twitter.
“Our defenders are giving their lives so that the tragedy of 1986 will not be repeated,” Zelensky said in a post on his official Twitter account Thursday. “This is a declaration of war against the whole of Europe.”