The “exclusion zone” of Chernobyl, training ground for the Ukrainian forces
Deserted since the 1986 nuclear disaster , the Chernobyl “exclusion zone” is one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. For Ukrainian forces trying to repel a Russian invasion, it has become a crucial training ground.
Covered in khaki camouflage netting, a Ukrainian army truck topped with an anti-aircraft gun maneuvers in the forested steppe surrounding Chernobyl, just ten miles from the city. border with Belarus.
He quickly gives way to a tank, then a column of men in position behind an armored car. At the signal, the soldiers launch a mock assault and venture into the woods, between two patches of melting snow.
A math teacher
The profile of these men gives an idea of the transformation that has affected the country since the beginning of the Russian invasion a year ago. “I'm a math teacher, I haven't had military training,” says Vassili.
At the beginning of the war, he did not hesitate to Not for a second: “On the 24th I was putting my things in order and on February 25 I was getting ready.” It's well guarded, “it's locked and no one will come through here,” he says.
Because training in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, which surrounds the damaged power plant within a radius of 30 kilometers, is also anything but harmless from a military point of view. On the first day of the invasion, February 24, 2022, the former nuclear power plant was conquered without a fight by the Russian army, which entered the area. He came to the Ukraine from Belarus.
He stayed there. there This lasted for a month, punctuated by the controversy over his management of the plant -it has not worked since the year 2000, but they continue to work there every day. a hundred employees– and rumors of contamination by Russian soldiers who would not have benefited.
If the Russian army has withdrawn, the threat remains and “a division continues.” ;was training in the territory of Belarus”, says Lieutenant General Serguiï Naïev, high-ranking officer of the Ukrainian army: “The goal is to push back the enemy's offensive on the side of Belarus and to prevent the landing of troops.”