The White House on Thursday condemned Russia over “credible reports” that civilian staff of the Chernobyl power plant in northern Ukraine had been taken hostage.
"We are outraged by credible reports that Russian soldiers are currently holding staff of the Chernobyl facilities hostage," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
"This unlawful and dangerous hostage taking, which could upend the routine civil service efforts required to maintain and protect the nuclear waste facilities, is obviously incredibly alarming and greatly concerning. We condemn it and we request their release."
Russians take Chernobyl: Ukrainian officials on Thursday confirmed that Russian forces had overtaken the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster.
Alyona Shevtsova, adviser to the supreme commander of Ukrainian Ground Forces, said on Facebook that Russian forces have taken control of the power station and staff members were being "held hostage."
"After the fierce battle, our control over the Chornobyl zone was lost. The condition of the former ChNPP facilities, confinement and nuclear waste storage facilities is unknown. After a completely senseless Russian attack in this direction, it is impossible to say that Chernobyl is safe. This is one of the most serious threats to Europe today," Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, said earlier on Thursday.
The nuclear disaster: In 1986, more than 30 people died after an explosion ripped through one of the Chernobyl power station's reactors. In the years and months that followed, many more people died from radiation symptoms.
In the immediate aftermath, a steel and concrete sarcophagus was constructed to cover the damaged reactor and contain the radioactive material, but it has deteriorated since then — leaking radiation.
In 2016 the New Safe Confinement arch was put in place to seal off the aging and hastily-constructed sarcophagus. In 2020 the facility was handed over to Ukrainian authorities, according to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.