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Poland began distributing iodine tablets to various regional fire departments on Thursday amid concerns about potential radioactive exposure from a Russian-occupied nuclear power plant in Ukraine.
There was shelling near Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest plant during fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces, and buildings near the plant’s six reactors were damaged.
If a nuclear emergency were to occur, neighboring countries like Poland would most likely be affected. Iodine is considered a protective substance against conditions resulting from radioactive exposure.
“After media reports about the fighting near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, we decided (…) in advance to take protective measures to distribute iodine,” said the Deputy Minister of Interior Blazej Pobozy in a radio show, according to Reuters.
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“I would like to reassure all citizens that these are routine and preventive actions which must protect us in the event of a situation which… I hope will not occur.”
On Thursday, the city of Zaporizhzhia faced more intense fighting after the Russian army reportedly fired nine missiles that hit a hotel and a power station, according to a local Ukrainian governor. Reuters notes that the town itself is only 31 miles from the power station.
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The situation in the region is causing international outcry and concern. United Nations officials have called for the creation of a safety zone around the plant to prevent further damage.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday announced a partial mobilization that will force thousands of Russian citizens to join the war effort amid recent losses to Ukraine’s defense forces.