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04 Jun, 2023
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Analysis: Why Would Putin Have Interest In Chernobyl – An Inoperative Nuclear Power Plant?

Russia is seizing control of Ukraine while the international community sits and watches. Even dozens of sanctions from the west could not stop Vladimir Putin from carrying on with his intention! If you look at Putin’s attack on Ukraine carefully, you would understand that the Russian President already had a roadmap in his mind before launching an attack on Ukraine. Right from the announcement, to the Russian military’s entry into Kyiv, to taking control of an inoperative nuclear power plant situated at the Ukraine-Belarus border – Chernobyl!

With the recent actions of Russia, you must be wondering why any nation would want to seize a site surrounded by miles of radioactive land? Well, the answer lies in geography. If you look at the map, you will know that the deadliest nuclear power plant in the world’s history lies at the border of Belarus and Ukraine. Chernobyl is situated in Belarus, which is a close ally of Russia. Also, the nuclear site is very close to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, to be precise, just 130 km. It’s important to note here that whenever a country plans to invade any other country, it focuses on capturing its capital. Once a country has taken full control of the capital, you can, in layman’s language, say that it has successfully established its power over the country. Remember the Taliban’s complete takeover of Afghanistan when they successfully captured Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital? 

In the same way, Vladimir Putin wants Chernobyl because the site is strategically the perfect location to enter Kyiv or keep a keen eye on Ukraine. Russian President Putin has his intentions clear, maintaining the threat of World War 3, even if he actually doesn’t plan to do so. Chernobyl sits on the shortest route from Belarus to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. Putin had already planned to take control of Chernobyl, knowing that Belarus is an ally of Moscow and hence, can become a staging ground for Russian troops. 

While Ukraine was planning to enter NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), Putin was chalking out a complete roadmap to invade Ukraine if the west didn’t take a step back from eastern Europe. Though western analysts have said that Chernobyl doesn’t have any military significance for Russia, only Putin knows if the inoperative nuclear power plant has any value other than providing the shortest route to Kyiv.

The Horrifying History of Chernobyl

During a safety test, the fourth reactor at Chernobyl, located in the then Soviet Union, exploded on 22nd April 1986. The blast sent clouds of radioactive radiation blowing across much of Europe and even reaching the east of the United States. The disaster remains the deadliest nuclear disaster in world history. The three radioactive strontium, caesium and plutonium caused the loss of lives mainly in present Ukraine, Belarus, as well as parts of Russia and Europe. Though the radioactivity of the area has decreased in the decades with wild animal population living normally, recent fighting in the area can stir up the contaminated soil and other radioactive debris. For the unversed, the Chernobyl disaster remains to be a point of contention between Russia and the west. While the west portrays the catastrophe as a product of Soviet mismanagement, Putin and his allies have for decades tried to recast the Soviet Union in a more positive light.

Many workers have spent years clearing the radioactive debris in the exclusive zone surrounding the damaged reactor. Experts have warned that any active fighting over the territory could cause radioactive waste spillage, raising dangerous environmental concerns. Interestingly, scholars often take the Chernobyl disaster as the significant contributor to the disintegration of the erstwhile Soviet Union. As one can see, Vladimir Putin is quite fond of bringing back the USSR era again, and it seems like he is starting off the chapter exactly where it ended. 

Can There Be A Nuclear War? 

While Chernobyl is practically a dead and inoperative nuclear power plant, Ukraine is still a nuclear country and has four active nuclear power plants. On the other hand, you can’t second doubt the nuclear capabilities of Russia. Some experts have suggested that Ukraine’s active nuclear power plants posses a significant threat as they sit within a vast exclusive zone, roughly around the size of Luxembourg. Well, as per the scenarios, there is no definite answer to the question. 

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