Ukrainian Lawmaker Fears Another Chernobyl Disaster From Russian Invasion

Ukrainian Member of Parliament Kira Rudyk said the greatest current threat to the country is Russia's ability to target its nuclear reactors, which she fears could cause a second Chernobyl disaster.

"During the last 16 days, since the war started, we have seen many things that were unimaginable. We have seen people suffering from the bombarding, we have seen people suffering from starvation, from dehydration," Rudyk told CNN on Friday.

"I am more concerned about the nuclear threat, honestly, because what we see is happening in Chernobyl station—where it was disconnected from the grid—is more scary to me," she said. "I remember Chernobyl. I know what influence radiation has on people's lives."

On Wednesday, the main electric supply to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was cut off. As of Friday, the plant continues to "remain under the control of the aggressor country," according to the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine in Kyiv.

"Regulatory control over the state of nuclear and radiation safety at the [Chernobyl] NPP site and in the Exclusion Zone, as well as control over nuclear materials at the enterprise is impossible to exercise," the state agency said in a Friday update.

The Ukrainian government is claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin has "ordered the preparation of a terrorist attack" on the plant.

Chernobyl Nuclear Ukraine Russia
The power at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine has been turned off since Wednesday. Above, a visitor stands next to a sign with the radiation warning symbol near Chernobyl on November 22, 2018. Sergei Supinsky/AFP

In 1986, an explosion and meltdown of the No. 4 reactor at the Chernobyl site was one of the world's worst nuclear disasters. The incident was one of two in which a nuclear accident reached the maximum severity on the International Nuclear Event Scale—the other was Fukushima in Japan.

On Friday, Rudyk doubled down on her request for NATO allies to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, arguing that until one is implemented, nuclear plants would continue to be threatened by Russian forces.

"I'm still asking: What is the plan from the NATO countries? How are we supposed to fight if we're not getting the support from the air?" she asked. "This is the main point right now. Putin is able to bombard the nuclear plants because Ukraine cannot oppose him in the air. This is much more critical for what I see right now than the threats of the chemical attack."

"We are fighting [Putin] very well [on the ground]. We are giving him a good fight and we will be standing up to his army and will continue doing so, but we need help in the air," she added.

The U.S. and other Western allies have refused to declare a no-fly zone in fears that doing so would be directly launching an attack on Russia and igniting a third world war.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has downplayed concerns of a radioactive release from Chernobyl, saying the circumstances at the plant and time since the disaster are enough to prevent history from repeating.

On Thursday, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told the Senate Intelligence Committee that while the situation in Chernobyl is concerning, "we haven't yet seen anything that takes us from concerned to 'it's a complete crisis.'"

Russia quickly captured the Chernobyl site after the invasion of Ukraine began on February 24 and have since also seized the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Any intentional attack on a nuclear power plant would be a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.