Kyiv has repeatedly accused Russian forces, which seized the plant in March, of storing heavy weaponry inside the complex and using it as cover to launch attacks, knowing that Ukraine can’t return fire without risking hitting one of the plant’s six reactors — a mistake that would spell disaster. Moscow, meanwhile, has claimed Ukrainian troops are targeting the site. Both sides have tried to point the finger at the other for threatening nuclear terrorism.
For Olga and her Ukrainian colleagues still working at the plant, the specter of nuclear disaster is not just the stuff of nightmares — it is a daily reality.
It is “like sleeping and watching a dream,” she told CNN in a recent phone interview, describing the surreal, prolonged shock that she has experienced working at the plant, which though held by Russian forces, is still primarily operated by Ukrainian technicians.
In the months since the nuclear facility was captured, Ukrainian employees have slowly started to return — carrying out tasks in partly shattered rooms and only coming into contact with Russian soldiers when they cross through two checkpoints to get inside the complex.
“After the occupation, only operational personnel worked at the station. There were a lot of broken and burned rooms and windows. Then they gradually began to go ask people to come to work for specific tasks,” Olga, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, said.
“Now the part of the staff that did not leave is working. About 35…