As tensions between Russia and Ukraine escalate, Ukrainian military prepared for a possible confrontation have begun training in an unusual location: the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Soldiers may train urban warfare in the abandoned and collapsing town of Pripyat, which is far from any residents who might be caught up in the drills.
It’s also the ideal setting for running through classified military operations and identifying flaws in the region – that is, until they allowed a swarm of foreign journalists to observe. Journalists from around the world observed as the Ukrainian Army engaged in live-fire drills in the lonely streets of Pripyat, demonstrating the lessons gained since the invasion of Crimea in 2014.
The exhibition was ostensibly a show of strength, but it actually serves as a powerful propaganda tool to counter Moscow’s increasing propaganda. “All of these scenarios are based on events that have occurred since 2014,” Denys Monastyrsky, Ukraine’s interior minister, said in a statement to local media outlets, according to CNN.
The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone stretches over 2,600 square kilometers (1,000 square miles) in Ukraine and borders a radioecological reserve in Belarus. Because of the boundary, the area has been highlighted as a prospective entrance point for Russia in the case of a war. The wide but mainly abandoned terrain, with a direct road to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, would be a perfect entrance point into the country, and Ukraine has now sent forces to protect it alongside the military exercises.
Despite a growing military presence on the Russia-Ukraine border and in the surrounding waterways, Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to dismiss the possibility of an invasion. The United States, on the other hand, has continued to caution that this may not be the case. While some people may be put off by the prospect of walking through the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, the Exclusion Zone is completely safe as long as you remain away from the trees and dispersed machinery used to remove burning radioactive material from the melting reactor. Visitors are routinely taken on tours of the breathtaking surroundings near the reactor and its environs, which includes:
Pripyat is an abandoned town featuring a decaying theme park, various laboratories with lines of jars storing specimens, a secret Soviet radar station, and some of the last remaining Lenin sculptures from the Soviet Union that haven’t been removed by later administrations. To restrict the amount of background radiation they are exposed to, workers in the zone must follow a rigorous 3-week on, 3-week off shift pattern. Other local inhabitants, dubbed “stalkers,” enter the zone on a regular basis and set up camp, while some individuals who lived there before the disaster have returned to live in the abandoned communities.