Yesterday, April 1, was April Fool’s Day, but one of the few news items I saw online about the Russian invasion of Ukraine was no laughing matter.
Since Vladimir Putin sent the Russian armed forces across its western border with Ukraine on February 22 on what he euphemistically calls a “special military operation,” the 1,000 sq mi Chernobyl Exclusion Zone near Ukraine’s capital Kyiv has been the scene of fighting and, until today, was occupied by units of the Russian Army.
According to various news reports, not only did the Russian Army officially hand over control of the area around the ill-fated Chernobyl nuclear plant that was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident to Ukraine, but it also withdrew all of its troops from the area, in part because many Russian soldiers were exposed to high levels of radiation since the invasion began.
Per the article ‘Russian mutants lost this round,’ Ukraine says after troops leave Chernobyl by National Public Radio staff reporter Bill Chappell:
Russia’s force has fully withdrawn from the area of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine’s defense ministry confirmed on Friday. It cited two reasons for the exit: military losses and radiation exposure.
“Russian mutants lost this round of @stalker_thegame,” the ministry said via Twitter, referring to the Stalker video game franchise that is set in the notoriously radioactive zone.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Thursday that it’s still working to determine the veracity of reports that Russian soldiers received high doses of radiation in the notoriously contaminated Chernobyl Exclusion Zone during more than a month of occupation.
I learned about this development late last night while perusing news and opinions content on YouTube before I left my room to watch Ron Howard’s Far and Away out in the Florida room, which is where our big TV and home theater system are.
Needless to say, the fact that Russian troops assaulted, captured, and occupied the former Soviet facility where one of four nuclear reactors exploded on April 26. 1986, causing a fire and releasing large amounts of deadly radioactive fallout that contaminated the area around the city of Pripyat, tells us that:
- Russia’s planning for this war was inept and shortsighted
- Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, only cares about the forces that he, as Russia’s autocratic head of state, commands as long as they are useful to pursuing his goals. Leaving aside the question of whether or not Putin’s war is moral, you’d think Putin would have told his generals to avoid sending Russian troops into an area that is infamously contaminated by radiation
- Many Russian soldiers, most of whom are draftees and don’t even want to fight in Ukraine, will develop radiation-related illnesses. Some will survive, but others will not
Here’s what the Daily Beast has to say on that topic.
In an article by Correspondent-at-Large Barbie Latza Nadeau, Russian Troops Suffer ‘Acute Radiation Sickness’ After Digging Chernobyl Trenches:
Several hundred Russian soldiers were forced to hastily withdraw from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine after suffering “acute radiation sickness” from contaminated soil, according to Ukrainian officials.
The troops, who dug trenches in a contaminated Red Forest near the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history, are now reportedly being treated in a special medical facility in Gomel, Belarus. The forest is so named because thousands of pine trees turned red during the 1986 nuclear disaster. The area is considered so highly toxic that not even highly specialized Chernobyl workers are allowed to enter the zone.
Energoatom, the Ukrainian agency in charge of the country’s nuclear power stations, said the Russian soldiers had panicked and fled.
“It has been confirmed that the occupiers who seized the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and other facilities in the Exclusion Zone set off in two columns towards Ukraine’s border with Belarus. The occupiers announced their intentions to leave the Chernobyl nuclear power plant this morning to the Ukrainian personnel of the station,” the agency said in a statement on Telegram, adding that a small number of Russians still remained at the facility.
The agency said it had also confirmed reports of Russian forces digging trenches in the Red Forest, “the most polluted in the entire exclusion zone.”
“Not surprisingly, the occupiers received significant doses of radiation and panicked at the first sign of illness. And it showed up very quickly.”
Local reports suggest that seven buses with the zapped troops arrived in Gomel early Thursday. Journalists on the ground have also reported “ghost buses” of dead soldiers being transported from Belarus to Russia under the cover of dark.
I am not going to celebrate the sad fate in store for the Russian soldiers who will suffer for their leaders’ reckless adventurism and arrogance. I am glad that Ukraine regained control of its own territory, and I hope that the Russian people will come to their senses and rid themselves of the Putin kleptocracy. But I can’t begin to imagine the suffering of those Russian soldiers who are sick and are likely to die from radiation-related health issues.
Such is the folly of war, Dear Reader.
Sources: ‘Russian mutants lost this round,’ Ukraine says after troops leave Chernobyl, by Bill Chappell, National Public Radio, April 1, 2022
Russian Troops Suffer ‘Acute Radiation Sickness’ After Digging Chernobyl Trenches, by Barbie Latza Nadeau, The Daily Beast, March 31, 2002