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Ukraine conducts disaster response drills near Zaporizhzhia nuclear station

Ukraine conducted nuclear disaster response drills on Thursday (29 June) in the vicinity of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, regional officials said.

Kyiv accused Russia this month of planning a “terrorist” attack at the southern plant involving the release of radiation. Moscow denied the accusation.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said on Thursday that he wrote to the U.N. Security Council and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to state: “We do not intend to blow up this NPP (nuclear power plant), we have no intention of doing so.”

Yuriy Malashko, governor of the Zaporizhzhia region that includes the plant, said the drills in Zaporizhzhia city and the district around it were intended to coordinate the response of all services to an “emergency situation” at the plant.

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Reuters television footage showed rescuers in yellow and white protective gear and gas masks, using dosimeters to check passenger cars and trucks for radiation levels and then cleaning wheels before vehicles underwent additional decontamination at specialised washing points.

A man on a stretcher was brought into a medical tent as sirens blared.

“Of course, it is scary. I fear for my family, my child, What do we do? It is very scary,” Tetyana, 45, said of the threat of a real disaster as rescuers checked her for radiation in the drill.

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Officials and civil defence forces worked on scenarios that might follow a nuclear disaster, and on how to inform and evacuate the population.

“We have assumed the worst scenario, in which the contamination zone will be bigger than 50 kilometres. This would mean four regions would be affected,” Yurii Vlasenko, a deputy energy minister, told reporters.

He said the results of the drill were good and Ukraine was “ready for the challenges” Russia posed.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, has been occupied by Russia since early March last year, shortly after Moscow’s full-scale invasion, and Kyiv and Moscow have accused each other of shelling the vast complex.

Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, suffered the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

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