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Russian soldiers disturbed radioactive dust at Chernobyl; didn’t wear protective gear, workers say: report

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Russian forces have kicked up radioactive dust and disturbed a highly toxic zone around the area of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site known as the “Red Forest” since capturing the defunct power plant early on in its invasion of Ukraine, workers at the site said. 

Reuters spoke with workers who said Russian soldiers in a convoy did not use anti-radiation gear and inhaled toxic dust that will most likely cause internal radiation in their bodies. In the weeks after Russia took the site on Feb. 24, soldiers were still not wearing any protective gear, they said. 

Two workers were on duty when Russian forces took control of the Chernobyl power plant, the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster that’s considered the worst in history and became an international embarrassment for the Soviet Union. The Red Forest, a small area surrounding the power plant, is still highly contaminated.

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In the days since Moscow captured the plant, the workers told the news outlet they saw Russian armored vehicles and tanks moving through the forest, which got its name from the vast amounts of radiation that turned the trees red. One Russian soldier allegedly told them that he’d never heard of the 1986 disaster.

“A big convoy of military vehicles drove along a road right behind our facility and this road goes past the Red Forest,” one employee told Reuters. “The convoy kicked up a big column of dust. Many radiation safety sensors showed exceeded levels.”

Valery Seida, acting general of the plant, told Reuters that he was told about the convoy, saying “nobody goes there. There is no one there.” 

A day after the site was taken, Russia said radiation levels at the plant were within limits and that staff were monitoring radioactivity. On March 9, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it stopped receiving monitoring data from the Chernobyl site. 

Over the weekend, Russian forces captured the town of Slavutych where many workers at the defunct Chernobyl plant live. On Monday, Seida and the mayor of Slavutych said the Russians had left the town. 

U.S. Sen. Bob Menedez, D-N.J., has called for the IAEA to work to ensure oversight of Ukrainian nuclear facilities under Russian control. 

In a letter dated Monday to IAEA Director General Grossi, Menendez said Moscow’s disregard for the IAEA’s safety protocols “exposes the international community to unforeseen nuclear threats and represents President Putin’s disregard for human life and the well-being of the citizens of Ukraine and his own people.”

“As we have learned from nuclear disasters of the past, the effects are lasting, irreversible, and result in the loss of life, habitats and ecosystems, and precious societies located near nuclear facilities,” he wrote. 

Grossi traveled to Ukraine Tuesday for talks with senior government officials on IAEA’S plan to deliver technical assistance in an effort to avert any potential dangers to people or the environment. 

“The military conflict is putting Ukraine’s nuclear power plants and other facilities with radioactive material in unprecedented danger. We must take urgent action to make sure that they can continue to operate safely and securely and reduce the risk of a nuclear accident that could have a severe health and environmental impact both in Ukraine and beyond,” he said in a statement. 

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The statement said Grossi will travel to one of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants this week, but didn’t say which one. Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors at four active power plants, As of Monday, the IAEA said, Ukraine’s nuclear regulator told it that eight of Ukraine’s 15 reactors were continuing to operate, including two at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia. The others were shut down for regular maintenance, it said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 



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Landmark national security trial of Hong Kong democracy activists begins. Here's what you need to know

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Some were seasoned politicians and veteran protest leaders. Others were academics, unionists and health care workers. They hailed from different generations and held a range of political views, but were brought together by what they say was a shared commitment to Hong Kong’s democratic future.



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Texas deputies stop driver hauling 13 illegal immigrants wearing camouflage clothing

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Deputies in Zavala County, Texas, caught nearly two dozen illegal immigrants during four separate traffic stops early Sunday, including 13 migrants smuggled in a pickup truck while cloaked in camouflage clothing, authorities said.

In total, the sheriff’s office said it apprehended 22 illegal immigrants, while 10 others fled after bailing from the vehicles.

In one case, the sheriff’s office said a deputy stopped a black Chevy pickup for a traffic violation on U.S. 57 east of La Pryor. As the deputy went to speak with the driver, he spotted multiple individuals wearing camouflage clothing lying in the bed of the truck.

The deputy then found more individuals inside the vehicle with the driver, who claimed they were all her cousins, according to officials.

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Illegal immigrants dressed in camouflage were being smuggled into the country by a Texas woman on Highway 57, police said.

Illegal immigrants dressed in camouflage were being smuggled into the country by a Texas woman on Highway 57, police said. (Zavala County Sheriff’s Office)

The driver, Samantha Renee Dela Fuente of San Antonio, was charged with smuggling, FOX29 San Antonio reported. Officials said the 13 undocumented individuals were turned over to Uvalde Border Patrol.

In a second incident, a deputy pulled over a Chrysler van for a traffic violation. When the deputy exited his cruiser to approach the vehicle, it sped away and prompted a short pursuit.

Deputies found 13 illegal immigrants dressed in camouflage in a pickup truck.

Deputies found 13 illegal immigrants dressed in camouflage in a pickup truck. (Zavala County Sheriff’s Office)

The driver eventually bailed, and three illegal immigrants were apprehended. Deputies said five other undocumented individuals had fled the scene.

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Deputies said two other illegal immigrants were found hidden in the back of an SUV during a traffic stop on U.S. 57 east of Batesville. The driver had bailed and fled.

Deputies arrested the driver, who was not immediately identified, and turned over the illegal immigrants to Border Patrol officials.

Deputies arrested the driver, who was not immediately identified, and turned over the illegal immigrants to Border Patrol officials. (Zavala County Sheriff’s Office)

A fourth traffic stop on a blue Chevy Malibu resulted in another short chase until the driver and other individuals bailed from the vehicle into the brush at the West Wind Ranch, the sheriff’s office said.

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Deputies apprehended three individuals while about five other suspected illegal immigrants escaped.

All the apprehended illegal immigrants were turned over to Border Patrol, the sheriff’s office said.



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Britishvolt: UK battery start-up set to be bought by Australian firm

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Building this battery plant is seen as absolutely vital to securing the future of UK car manufacturing. But the last time an ambitious start-up, with unproven technology led by people unheard of in the battery and car world, attempted this it ended up in the spectacular failure of Britishvolt, which collapsed into administration last month.



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