Why Russian Troops May Have Been Exposed To Radiation

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, the conflict impacts various areas of the country, including a zone that's dangerous for a number of reasons — the city of Chernobyl, and more specifically, Chernobyl's Red Forest. Russian troops seized the city and nearby areas in February and March 2022. According to Ukraine, that move will not be without its consequences. This isn't a veiled threat — Ukraine is referring to the effects of the ever-present radiation, in which the Russian army spent a good amount of time.

Unlike many other parts of Ukraine, Chernobyl was not a bustling city filled with people when Russia invaded it. The city had been abandoned since 1986 when it was the site of a massive nuclear accident, in which a flawed reactor caused an explosion in the local nuclear power plant. Although only 31 people are said to have died as a direct result of the accident, the remaining radiation had far-flung effects that continue to this day.

As a result, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Zone of Alienation (more commonly known as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone) has been established. The area covers around 19 miles within the radius of the explosion, and even over 30 years later, it's highly contaminated. Only around 100 people still live in Chernobyl, and no new citizens are allowed in, so the city is slowly dying out. It is there, in that dangerous, deserted area with extremely high radiation, that some Russian troops settled for a few weeks.

Russian troops may be afflicted by radiation sickness

The prediction comes from Yehven Kramarenko, the head of the State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management. This was shared by Business Insider. Addressing reporters, Kramarenko discussed the fact that Russian troops were stationed in the exclusion zone for a whole five weeks. The Russian army has now given up control of the area, but the five weeks the soldiers spent in the Red Forest can have a lasting effect on their health — and according to Kramarenko, some of those problems have already begun.

Reuters claims that the Red Forest, a fairly small pine forest that died following the nuclear explosion in Chernobyl, is the most contaminated part of the Exclusion Zone. The Russian troops dug trenches in the forest and were stationed there until earlier this month. Kramarenko also confirmed that Russian soldiers were seen driving around the forest without any kind of protective equipment in order to shield themselves from the surrounding radiation. As a result, they certainly inhaled radioactive dust.

There is no way to tell how bad the radiation is right now

The CDC lists a number of possible consequences that can affect people who are exposed to radiation for a prolonged time. The short-term effects include acute radiation syndrome, but the long-term effects are perhaps worse, with cancer and cardiovascular disease listed as two of the worst-case scenarios. Energoatom, the Ukrainian power company, said to The Guardian that the Russian troops left in a state of "panic" earlier this month, having already started to feel the effects of radiation. These armies have gone back to Russia, and in some cases, to Belarus.

The damage that was done during their five-week occupation is difficult to estimate right now due to the fact that Ukraine doesn't know how much radiation they were exposed to. This matter might remain unresolved for quite some time because the area lost electricity during the conflict, meaning it's going to be hard to tell how high the radiation levels are in Chernobyl right now.