Ukrainian forces fired on abandoned buildings and launched grenades and mortars on Friday. during urban combat exercises in the city of Pripyat, which is deserted since the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster caused thousands to flee.
The special forces, the police and the national guard carried out the exercises on snowy streets near hotels and abandoned Soviet buildings. A special radiation control agency conducted inspections before and during the exercises.
Ukraine has carried out drills as the country prepares for a possible military offensive after Russia massed more than 100,000 troops near its borders in recent weeks.
“This was a battle with irregular militias in (an) urban setting”said a soldier, dressed in white camouflage clothing, who did not provide his name.
Russia, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backs separatists in the country’s east, He denies that he plans to attack, but demands security guarantees, including a promise that the NATO military alliance will never admit Ukraine.
The troops, dressed in winter camouflage, practiced how to clear armed attackers from buildings, targeted mortar fire, and engaged snipers in urban conditions.
Emergency services workers organized evacuations (a loudspeaker on a drone telling residents to leave) and fighting fires caused by the fighting.
Since there are no civilians around here, we can carry out exercises with live ammunition in a situation as close as possible to a real urban war”, said a National Guard soldier, giving only his nickname, “Litva”.
But exercising inside the exclusion zone comes with its own risks. Before the training, the first of its kind in Pripyat, the workers had to scan the route to verify that there were no radioactive access points.
“Everything has been checked and does not present any danger”, Litva said confidently, clutching her automatic rifle to her chest.
On April 26 of last year, Ukraine commemorated the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, that occurred when a reactor at the plant located about 108 kilometers north of the capital, Kiev, exploded during a failed safety test.
The result was the the world’s worst nuclear accident and sent clouds of radiation over much of Europe. Thirty-one plant workers and firefighters died immediately after the catastrophe, mostly from radiation.
Thousands more later suffered from diseases related to radiation, such as cancer, although the total number of deaths and the long-term health effects remain a matter of debate.
(With information from Reuters and AFP)
The first US troops arrived in Europe and Poland announced the shipment of weapons to Ukraine
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister assured that Western support contained Russia’s “intimidation strategy”
The European Union does not rule out using the Nord Stream II gas pipeline to sanction Russia if it decides to invade Ukraine