Since the beginning of the invasion of Russian troops we have been writing about the use of satellite data to support the people of Ukraine. From a list of companies that provide satellite imagery, to an overview of satellite images of destroyed cities, we collect all these stories on a special page.
In this article, we investigate the situation around the Chernobyl nuclear site, that was occupied by Russian forces. In a few weeks it will be 36 years since the largest ever man-made disaster took place, when the fourth reactor of the nuclear plant exploded, resulting in unprecedented nuclear fallout across half the planet.
Russian troops invaded Chernobyl
A day after the Russian invasion into Ukraine, state-controlled media agency of Russia “РИА НОВОСТИ” (RIA Novosti) reported that Russian paratroopers took full control of the area near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. This was explained by an official representative of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation as a guarantee of preventing a nuclear provocation by nationalist groups or other terrorist organisations.
On that same day, February 25, the “Украинская правда” (Ukrayinska Pravda) paper shared radar images from Capella Space, showing the appearance of a pontoon bridge across the Pripyat River near the Belarus-Ukraine border, and vehicles crossing the new bridge.
This part of the river is located within the exclusion zone in the Belarusian Polessky State Radiation and Ecological Reserve. The road from here crosses the border with Ukraine, leading directly to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
Satellite Images Capture Forest Fires in Chernobyl
At the end of March, when Russian troops controlled the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, there were reports of forest fires in the area.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources reported that as a result of hostilities and arson of forests and fields in the exclusion zone by Russian troops, there was an increase in the level of radioactive air pollution:
“Satellite images from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) help us detect large fires. However, due to the limitation of Earth remote sensing data used by our specialists, we do not rule out the existence of a significant number of smaller ignition sources”, the report explained.
According to a report on IZ.RU, the adviser to the Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, Vadym Denisenko, said on 28 March that the situation of the spread of wildfires in the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant had stabilised.
On March 31, Russia withdrew troops from the territory of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
Troops Camping Out in The Most Radioactive Zone
According to a number of reports, Russian troops were traveling through the so-called ‘Red Forest’ in the Chernobyl exclusion zone without radiation detection equipment; their armored vehicles raising clouds of radioactive dust.
The ‘Red Forest’ in the Chernobyl exclusion zone is considered the most contaminated zone in the area. Thanks to satellite images it was possible to find a camp of Russian troops in this place. It is worth noting that during the preparation of this camp, the military dug into radioactive soil. The health consequences can range from minor to fatal, and won’t be visible until weeks, or even years later.
The report of Russian troops camping out in the most polluted area of the Chernobyl exclusion zone was also described by Geoff Brumfiel, an editor/correspondent for NPR Science:
Satellite imagery during the war
At Groundstation.space we share news and insights about the use of satellite data during the war in Ukraine. Please check out our special page to find more content, and see how you can help.
Featured image credit: Pixabay