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As the Ukrainian state news agency reports that consultations are underway as to when and where negotiations with Putin might take place, a disastrous moment in Ukrainian history looms large again, with the Russian occupation of Chernobyl.
Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova told a press conference in Washington, DC, confirmed that Russian forces are now holding 92 operational personnel of the Chernobyl power plant hostage, preventing them from working their shifts and risking potential disaster.
Markarova said the Russian army has been fully in control of the nuclear power plant since late Thursday.
“After a completely senseless Russian attack in this direction, it is impossible to say that Chernobyl is safe,” CNN quoted Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak as saying. “This is one of the most serious threats to Europe today.”
While reports from earlier today warned of increased radiation levels at Chernobyl, Ukrainian scientists now say the plant has not been damaged, according to the New York Times; however, analysts are now concerned about the threat of a purposeful meltdown at the infamous nuclear power plant.
Increased radiation levels were reportedly the result of the movement of heavy military equipment in the area, which lifted radioactive dust into the air, Reuters reported.
But the threat still looms large.
Any shelling of this area could result in the spread of radioactive material outside the Chernobyl zone.
Writing on Facebook on Thursday, former Ukrainian Interior Ministry deputy Anton Gerashchenko warned that, "If as a result of the occupiers' artillery strikes the nuclear waste storage facility is destroyed, the radioactive dust may cover the territories of Ukraine, Belarus and the EU [European Union] countries!"
In the meantime, while fighting continues on the ground, with Ukrainian officials discussing potential negotiations with Putin, the Russian president had earlier said there would be no talks until Ukraine stops fighting back.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said earlier today that Russia was ready to send a delegation to Belarus–a proposal Kyiv is now considering.
"As you know, today the President of Ukraine [Volodymyr] Zelensky announced his readiness to discuss the neutral status of Ukraine," Peskov said, according to RIA. "Initially, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the purpose of the operation was to help the LPR and the DPR [Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, separatist statelets in eastern Ukraine recently recognized by Russia as independent], including through the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine. And this, in fact, is an integral component of neutral status."
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.