Ukrainians living near nuclear power plant express fears

Almost daily, residents of Zorya, a small village about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, listen to the sound of explosions falling within 10 kilometers (6 miles) of their homes.

However, it is not the bombardments that frighten them, but rather the risk of a leak in the factory which could have terrible consequences for those who still live in the region.

“The bomb is not scary,” said Natalia Stokoz, a mother of three living in the village where around 400 of the roughly 1,000 residents have fled since the start of the war, referring to the shelling.

“The power station, yes, it’s the scariest,” she said.

Stokoz keeps herself informed by the messages she receives from her relatives and by the news circulating on social networks.

She said she tries to calm her children, Sonia, 11, Bogdan, eight, and Veronika, three, when the blasts are loud, but sometimes finds it hard not to be scared.

His most serious concern is what might happen at the nuclear plant.

“Children and adults will be affected, and it’s scary if the nuclear plant explodes. It’s close,” she said after hugging and kissing her youngest daughter outside her home in Zorya.

“There is anxiety because we are quite close,” confirmed Oleksandr Pasko, a 31-year-old farmer living a few meters from Stokoz.

His wife and their 6-year-old daughter fled to Poland in March when war broke out.

He and other farmers in the area have been able to harvest wheat this season, but he says the risk of working in the fields is serious, and sometimes they even see rockets flying overhead while they work. .

Pasko said Russian shelling has intensified in recent weeks.

He feels calm because his family is not in danger, but said that if anything dangerous should happen at the nuclear power plant, he will run away from the village as quickly as possible.

As a precautionary measure, the authorities distributed iodine pills and masks to residents of the area near the factory during the first weeks of the war.

Recently, they also distributed iodine pills in the city of Zaporizhzhia, which is about 50 kilometers from the nuclear power plant.

Initially, hundreds of people lined up to get the pills, although the situation is now calmer, with only a few going to schools and health centers to get them, along with information on how and when take them.

“Of course I worry about my health and that of my family,” said Mariana Isaieva, mother of six-year-old Zlata, who went to school with other mothers and children to take the pills and say hello. the teacher. of her daughter who, because of the war, is studying online.

Fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces continues to rage near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in the Russian zone of eastern Ukraine.

Friday’s clashes came as inspectors from the UN’s nuclear monitoring agency expressed concern over the ‘physical integrity’ of the Zaporizhzhia plant without blaming either side belligerent.

Many people fear that continued shelling and fighting in the area where the Zaporizhzhia power plant is located could lead to a nuclear disaster.

Local Kremlin-backed officials said a reactor that was shut down on Thursday had been restarted.

Ukraine alleges that Russia is using the plant as a shield to launch attacks.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi said he planned to produce a report early next week after his team’s visit to the plant, and would brief the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

Six of the agency’s experts remain at the Zaporizhzhia plant, and there will be a permanent presence there with two experts remaining, Grossi told reporters after returning to Vienna.

Grossi did not say exactly how long the two experts will stay.

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Christi C. Elwood