Fears Chernobyl is Russian target sparks military defence of radioactive land

Fears that Russia will target Chernobyl in an invasion had led Ukraine to defend the disaster zone with troops.

The former nuclear plant remains the most radioactive place in the world following its devastating explosion in 1986.

Yet Ukraine has stationed thousands of soldiers around Chernobyl out of fear Russian forces will storm the area from its northern border with Belarus.

The abandoned town of Pripyat which once housed the nuclear plant's workforce is now populated with troops.

Lieutenant Colonel Yuri Shakhraichuk of the Ukrainian Border Guard said: "It does not matter if it is polluted or if no one lives here.

"It is our territory, our country, and we must defend it."

Troops have been equipped with devices to wear around their necks which will monitor the amount of radiation they have been exposed to.

But worker Oleksei Prishepa told the New York Times: "We don’t know what will kill us first, the virus, radiation or war."

Despite photographic evidence of mobilised forces suggesting otherwise the Kremlin continues to deny any plans of mounting war against Ukraine.

A US Government website released a fact sheet on 'Russian Disinformation on Ukraine,' stating that Moscow instigated the current crisis by placing more than 100,000 troops on the border of Ukraine.

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The document stated that there was no similar military activity on the Ukrainian side of the border.

When Chernobyl famously exploded as a result of poor design and insufficient staff training, it killed 31 people and exposed thousands more to deadly radiation.

The impacted 386 square mile area is in the path of Ukraine's Belarusian border to its capital Kiev but swampy and densely forested terrain makes it an unfavourable invasion route.

Even still, Ukraine has not ruled it out.

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The 700 mile-long border between Ukraine and Belarus was practically unguarded until a migrant crisis in November which was addressed by the military on both sides.

The United States and Great Britain are providing military aid to Ukraine which the Russian Foreign Ministry called this a "provocation".

A top-secret SAS team has also reportedly been placed on standby to evacuate high ranking UK officials in Ukraine should Russian forces begin a full-scale invasion of the country.

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