Russians Allow Dozens Of Chernobyl Workers To Leave After 600 Hours As Hostages

Nuclear power plant employees have been working since the Russian invasion began nearly a month ago.

Dozens of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant employees who were forced by Russian troops to stay at the facility for 600 hours were finally allowed to leave Sunday.

Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, welcomed the workers’ release, but warned that it was long overdue.

The plant employees “deserve our full respect and admiration for having worked in these extremely difficult circumstances,” Grossi said. “They were there for far too long. I sincerely hope that remaining staff from this shift can also rotate soon.”

A Facebook post from the plant said that 64 people were sent home after they “heroically performed their professional duties and maintained the appropriate level of safety.” The workers included guards, technicians and others.

The employees who rotated out represented about half the staff at the site, per the IAEA. They were replaced Sunday by 46 Ukrainian “employee-volunteers,” the Facebook post said.

The workers had been held hostage at the facility since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. For weeks, the IAEA had called for the plant employees to be allowed to rotate, pointing to serious safety concerns posed by exhausted personnel operating under stress.

Although the Russians disconnected the plant from the power grid, engineers restored power five days later, The Washington Post reported.

Chernobyl was the site of the biggest nuclear power plant accident in history in 1986. While radioactive waste management facilities are located at the plant, its last reactor closed in 2000.

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