Officials say that Moscow now controls area in northern Ukraine after fire fight
Ukrainian ambassador warns about Russia capturing Chernobyl nuclear power plant
The reactor at Chernobyl infamously melted down in April 1986 during a test, covering much of Europe in a radioactive cloud.
At that time, Ukraine remained a part of the Soviet Union, and to this day a highly protected 20-mile exclusion zone had existed around the site, which entombs a highly dangerous amount of nuclear material.
So why would Vladimir Putin have prioritised it for capture and control by his advancing troops? The answer is most likely because of its geographical location, rather than the site itself.
Chernobyl is situated in northern Ukraine, several miles inside the border with Belarus and around 80 miles north of the embattled country’s capital, Kiev.
“Chernobyl is the shortest route from Russia to Kyiv. The facility is not the goal,” tweeted CNN analyst and national security expert Juliette Kayyem.
There is a main road connecting the area to Kiev and so it could have been taken as a staging point for troops and equipment, which have been built up on the Belarus side of the border.
Because of the nature of the site, it is also perhaps unlikely that any equipment stored near the site would be targeted for bombing or artillery fire.
Ukraine observers also say that Chernobyl sits on the western side of the Pripyat river, which merges with the Dneiper river just north of Kiev.
The site therefore becomes strategically important for the western flank of Russian troops if they eventually circle the city.
Other observers have said that Russia wanted to gain control of the Chernobyl power substation, which provides energy to Belarus and parts of western Russia.
“My analysis is the purpose of holding the Chernobyl area is to control the power substation there which is critical to electrical supply in the region, including Belarus and Russia. I know this from interviewing the engineers there when I was a diplomat assigned to the embassy,” tweeted Shane Partlow, who used to work at the US embassy in Kiev.
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