Annexation of Chernobyl – by Sean Coombs

In the first days of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, the capital Kyiv was in full sight of the Russian invaders. Due to the propagandist’s demands that Kyiv be taken in three days, the invaders were progressing at full speed to overwhelm the Ukrainian capital. However, one stumbling block that lay between the invaders and the capital was the infamous nuclear exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl, an area so ubiquitous in modern culture that it needs no explanation. This exclusion zone was a factor that the invaders underestimated to put it lightly, and it can be argued that their follies within the zone spelled the beginning of the end for their offensive.

The annexation of the exclusion zone by the invaders was completed relatively quickly, as like many Ukrainian areas bordering Belarus, it wasn’t adequately safeguarded from invasion. The invaders, many of whom were unfamiliar with the risks associated with radiation, soon fashioned the exclusion zone into a forwarding base for supplies and troops. The staff at the Chernobyl nuclear plant were violently subjugated, abandoned apartment buildings were made into temporary accommodations, and invaders dug trenches in the fields and valleys of the zone without wearing any sort of protective equipment.

Very soon and quite predictably, things started going wrong for the invaders in the exclusion zone. Radiation readings and air samples within the exclusion zone began to rise dramatically to dangerous levels, as the masses of invading tanks, trucks, and troops kicked up decades worth of radioactive dust that the invaders were unaware of.

Troops digging trenches ignored warning signs and came into contact with highly radioactive water and soil deposits, with many of those troops soon succumbing to severe radiation sickness.

Reports show that emergency medical flights from the Belarus border to Moscow were soon after conducted. The sickened troops were sent to the very same Moscow radiation hospital where Chernobyl survivors were treated in 1986, which is ironic considering that unlike the survivors, the invading troops had willingly exposed themselves to radiation while ignoring the warnings put in place by Ukrainians.

Due to the mass numbers of troops being sickened within the exclusion zone, the invading Russian offensive in the region was considerably weakened as a result.

And thus only a few weeks later, the exclusion zone and the entire north of the Kyiv region were liberated after a complete collapse of Russian forces. While the events in the exclusion zone may only be a small component of the failures of the Russian invaders, the reasons why so many troops were sickened are telling of what battle tactics they used.


“Unprotected Russian Soldiers Disturbed Radioactive Dust in Chernobyl’s ‘Red Forest’, Workers Say.” Reuters, March 29, 2022. ernobyls-red-forest-2022-03-28/.

Marder, Michael. “What Did the Russians Dig up When They Dug Trenches in Chernobyl? .” Aeon, November 11, 2022.

Peter, Laurence. “Ukraine War: Chernobyl Scarred by Russian Troops’ Damage and Looting.” BBC News, June 3, 2022.

Sean Coombs is a Journalism undergraduate student, Carleton University