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Russian troops dug trenches in the most radioactive area of Chernobyl, new drone footage shows

The Russian troops who occupied Ukraine's Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant from the first week of their invasion until late last week dug pits and trenches in the site's highly radioactive exclusion zone, according to drone footage from Ukraine's military released Wednesday by Energoatom, the state-owned operator of Ukraine's nuclear power plans, CNN reports.

"The exclusion zone was established because of high radiation levels in the area after a nuclear reactor exploded at the plant in April 1986," Reuters notes. The drone video "shows vacant pits and trenches of abandoned military fortifications in an area known as the Red Forest," CNN reports, named for the pine trees that turned red after absorbing radiation and "considered the most polluted area in the entire Chernobyl exclusion zone — and off limits to anyone who does not work there or have special permission." 

Energoatom suggested last Thursday that the Russians abandoned the site due to radiation concerns, though in the days since Russia pulled out of northern Ukraine entirely. Ukraine is now back in control of Chernobyl, and plant workers said the Russians weren't wearing anti-radiation protective equipment when they kicked up the radioactive dust.