Russian forces captured the Chernobyl power plant north of Kiev on Thursday afternoon, the first day of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, “after a fierce battle” according to Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak.
The condition of the plant and its nuclear waste storage facilities are unknown.
Two people died immediately at the site, just 100 miles from Kiev, immediately following the explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in 1986, and another 28 people died within weeks.
Following the explosion, the nearby city of Pripyat in northern Ukraine, once home to nearly 50,000 people, was evacuated and remains abandoned to this day.
The attack began at around 3 am Thursday with Russian troops pouring in from Russia, Belarus and Crimea. Ukraine’s border guard reported that Russian military forces were closing in on the Kiev region from the north and south.
At least 40 Ukrainian soldiers and around a dozen civilians have been killed, and multiple others wounded in the fighting.
In southern Ukraine’s strategic port city of Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, the NetBlocks internet tracking organization reported Thursday that a “significant” internet disruption had been registered.
“The incident comes amid reports of civilian casualties and the loss of telecoms (sic) services for many,” NetBlocks reported in a tweet.
⚠️ Update: A significant internet disruption has been registered in the strategic port city of #Mariupol, Donetsk. The incident comes amid reports of civilian casualties and the loss of telecoms services for many.
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) February 24, 2022
Earlier in the day, NetBlocks confirmed a significant internet disruption that was registered in the city of Kharkiv shortly after huge explosions were heard.
In Russia, meanwhile, there is little unity about the need for an attack on Ukraine.
As of 7:30 pm Thursday evening, Russian police had arrested 653 demonstrators at anti-war protests in 40 cities across the country, according to the OvdInfo monitoring group. In Moscow, along 290 people were arrested by police dressed as storm troopers.
“Security personnel are increasingly using force,” the watchdog group reported.