Ukraine loses control of Chernobyl nuclear site after battle with Russian troops, official says

A military vehicle with spaced armour is pictured during tactical drills for Ukrainian Interior Ministry units to practice interoperability while defending a city, urban combat tactics and response to the aftermath of the hostilities in Prypiat, the

Ukrainian officials said their forces have lost control of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, scene of the world's worst nuclear disaster.

Hours after the invasion began, Russian forces seized control of the zone around the now-unused Chernobyl plant following a fierce battle with troops, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's adviser Myhailo Podolyak told The Associated Press.

A Ukrainian official said Russian shelling hit a radioactive waste repository and an increase in radiation levels was reported. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter.

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"This is one of the most serious threats to Europe today," Podolyak said.

President Zelenskyy had announced several hours earlier Thursday that Russian forces were trying to seize the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

A nuclear reactor at the plant 130 kilometers north of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, exploded in April 1986, sending a radioactive cloud across Europe.

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The exploded reactor was covered by a protective shelter several years ago to prevent radiation leaks.

It was not immediately possible for experts to access the repository to assess damage before Russian forces overtook the site.