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"The food supplies in the city are enough for a week – ten days," Mayor of Slavutych

On March 26, the russian occupiers entered Slavutych, a satellite city of Chernobyl nuclear plant. Mayor Yuri Fomichev was taken hostage.

In response to the attempted occupation, about five thousand citizens gathered at the central square of the city and unfurled a hundred-meter flag of Ukraine. The russians tried to disperse people with shots into the air and flash grenades. Unfortunately, two people were injured by grenade fragments, one man is in a very serious condition.

As of Saturday evening, the russian military had left the city. Negotiations with the occupiers on a possible rotation of staff at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant every ten days are underway.

The Mayor of Slavutych Yuriy Fomichev told about everything happening now in the city inhabited by nuclear power specialists in Kyiv region.

Photo: video screenshot

"I was not tortured. And I was released because our people came to the central square."

Today, russian troops entered Slavutych. And in the morning there was information that the occupiers had taken you prisoner in the city hospital. How did it happened?

In fact, no one captured me at the hospital. It is a fake. And let's get rid of it. I was ambushed when I was driving into the city. So the story was different. Only later they found out that I was the Mayor. We talked to their leader. We explained that currently, there are no military [Ukrainian Armed Forces -] in the city and no territorial defense. There was also no police. Therefore, there is no reason to fight the civilian population. There can be none.

Have you been subjected to any illegal actions or tortured? How did you manage to persuade the russians to release you?

No, I was not tortured. And they released me because our people came to the central square of the city. There were more than five thousand civilians. We went to the people on the square to confirm that we are ready to peacefully continue fighting for our rights.

Photo: screenshot from TV MediaDom Slavutich

How did I convince them? I said one thing: "There is no Armed Forces in our city. That's it. You will now be fighting with the local people who came to the rally. We will go there now, and you will see it yourselves. There. I'm your cover. Let's go! I will stand in front of you." That's how I talked to them.

When you were still in captivity during the rally, the citizens unfurled a large flag of Ukraine. The occupiers opened fire in the air and threw flash grenades, but the number of people participating in the rally was only getting larger. We have information about two victims of the shooting by the occupiers. Is it so?

Our people went to rally simply demanding to stop shooting at unarmed people, to stop hostilities, because they were fighting peaceful people. I asked for it and argued.

Why did they continue to shoot at common people on the square?

I confirm that they fired [flash and] noise grenades. Unfortunately, the fragments seriously injured one person who is in a very serious condition. Another citizen was also wounded, but his condition is currently under control.

Explosion of a flash grenade during a rally of Slavutych citizens
Photo: screenshot from TV MediaDom Slavutich
Explosion of a flash grenade during a rally of Slavutych citizens

"We are only waiting for a counterattack by our forces"

Did you continue negotiations with the occupiers? What were their demands? What did you ask for?

They checked for weapons in our town. They searched the administrative buildings. And all the basements. They made sure there were no weapons. And it’s really so. Because fights were outside the city, as we agreed that with the territorial defense from the very beginning. Our guys were excellent. They persevered to the end, for as long as they could. The city's territorial defense consists exclusively of our locals. It is not the Ukrainian Armed Forces that would have been stationed here formidably. But our city was occupied. Everything around was occupied. That's why we had nowhere to get help from. We are only waiting for a counterattack by our forces.

Did you discuss the possibility of organizing an exit, a humanitarian corridor for civilians with invadors?

Yes. We discussed this issue. In theory, such an opportunity should arise. Tomorrow we will try to organize the first corridor for the civilian population. If everything is agreed upon and there is such an opportunity, we will definitely inform our citizens about it. But it’s not an easy road.

Photo: Screenshot

Will this not be a centralized evacuation of people? For example, by buses? Or other transport?

There will be no centralized evacuation because these decisions are made on the highest level. We can only facilitate the departure of individuals if they make that decision. At their own risk, they will be able to leave. 'Green corridors' is a much higher level.

Why are you talking about the difficulties on the road? Is it mined?

It is technically complex. It’s sand, and it goes through the woods. Because the road we were sued to went through the city of Chernihiv. All the bridges were blown up there. We can't even get there. Fierce battles continue there. It's a real hell.

"Today, the people on the square told them everything they thought, what they will do to the [proposed] humanitarian aid. Despite the fact that all these days they are without food"

Some locals on social media after your speech at the rally reported with reference to you that the invaders offered to allow the supply of humanitarian aid. Is it true?

The conversation about it was inactive. I announced that we would definitely not facilitate or accept their humanitarian aid. We organize the supply of our humanitarian aid. If they have such a desire [to bring humanitarian aid], we understand that we cannot stop them. If they bring it, so be it. But people on the square today told them everything they thought, what they wil do to the [proposed] humanitarian aid. Despite the fact that all these days they are without food. Actually, there is still some food left, but we are running out of it.

Photo: Oleksandr Pavliuk

How many people stay in the city?

We are counting people to confirm the number. I think we have about 12,000-15,000 citizens. But everything will be clear in a day or two. Due to hostilities, we have now closed the call center. And it is through it that we keep record of all those who remain in the city. We will have a clear picture and understanding of how many people are still staying in Slavutych in a few days.

For how many days would the city have enough food and water?

We are fine with water because the water in Slavutych is very good. The Mayor drinks it from the tap. As for food, according to our estimates, we have a reserve for seven-ten days. Then the hard times will begin. It does not mean that there will be a famine. However, this means that someone has to deliver it to us because we will have nothing left.

What is the situation with medicine and health care?

We are more or less okay with medicines. We bring more medication – there is an opportunity for that. [We] bring medicines to the city in small batches. We manage that.

Is it true that the occupiers asked the population to give up all automatic weapons?

Yes, the matter concerned automatic weapons, rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers.

Photo: Screenshot from Energoatom

Were these weapons handed over?

They were looking for them. But found nothing. And I don't think they will. Because the city doesn’t have them, the territorial defense did. It stayed with our guys.

Yesterday on Facebook, you wrote: "It was a difficult day in Slavutych today! Our defenders held the line bravely and devotedly! But the forces were unequal! Our territorial defense opposes the invader's army, and our guys are real heroes! We thank the Armed Forces for artillery support!" Our guys bravely held the line. So why did the breakthrough happen?

Because the fights have already moved to the city, so the decision not to endanger our residents was made. So yes. The forces are definitely not equal. You have to understand that our territorial defense consists of a small number of people. I will not give you the number. Bringing additional weapons to the occupied territories around our city was extremely difficult.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces could not approach because of objective circumstances.

Yes. Unfortunately, we are far in the rear of the enemy. We received help from our artillery from outside the city. However, continuing to conduct artillery shelling by the Armed Forces in the city with the occupier is to shoot at oneself. We also understand that.

Occupants at the streets of Slavutych
Photo: Screenshot from TV MediaDom Slavutich
Occupants at the streets of Slavutych

"Negotiations are underway to rotate Chernobyl personnel at least every ten days"

Another important question. Do negotiations with the occupiers on the possibility of further rotation of Chernobyl personnel continue?

Yes. We are in a constant dialogue about it. Because we understand its importance and that we have to do it. It is the only way for us. Unfortunately, we have to negotiate.

At which stage are they? What exactly did you discuss with them about security at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant?

We want to reach an agreement for the periodic rotation of the staff. We had 26 days since the first day of the capture of the plant without change. We now want to reduce this number of days for staff rotation by at least half, so that the staff can replace each other faster. We understand that we will not have regular work and daily replacements. But at least we reduce shifts to ten days – this is what we want to negotiate now.

Is information about russian personnel who have already entered the Chernobyl nuclear power plant incorrect?

I have no such information.

Are Ukrainian employees of the plant still ready to stay in such difficult conditions, to continue working at the plant for our safety?

Of course. People saw how the first group of staff had worked since the beginning of the occupation. And these people went to replace them, understanding all the risks and realizing that they were going there for an unknown period. It indicates that our people are ready to work in such difficult conditions.

Photo: Max Trebukhov

When the plant was suddenly seized on February 24, the staff patiently worked all this time. They are real heroes. But it was a different matter when a new group of people went there. These had chosen to be heroes. Of course, there are no doubts in those who have worked there since the beginning of the attack. But we should not even question how brave are those who went there now. And most importantly, other people and staff are also ready to go there and continue their work at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Continue rotations. Therefore, we have no issues with that.

According to your forecasts and estimates, will the occupiers agree to allow staff to rotate to the station every 10 days?

We hope so. But at the moment, it is not confirmed.

Everyone is concerned about radiation safety. There is constant information flow about the alleged increase in the background radiation and fires in the so-called Red Forest. And that the situation is not under control. As the Mayor of the satellite city of the station, are you keeping this issue under control?

We understand that the situation with forest fires will become much more difficult because our equipment cannot work as usual, as well as the emergency service workers or our planes. That is why we are concerned about this issue. The main challenge is not to let fires get directly to the plant. Because then it will be a real problem. After all, the burning of the forests is annual event. But it is challenging to maintain it is an ordinary forest. Although every year are getting more machinery and it gets better, at the same time, we understand that solving this problem is not so easy. That is the story.

Photo: Video schreenshot

"Slavutych remains under the Ukrainian flag"

What is the current situation in the city? Where are the occupiers? How far?

They are not in the city. They went out of it. We don't see them now. And unfortunately, we cannot predict their future actions.

Does Slavutych remain under the Ukrainian flag and Ukrainian legislation?

It is 100% so. Five thousand people in the square. Our Ukrainian hundred-meter flag, which they carried out. Our flags of Ukraine and the city of Slavutych are waving at the executive committee building. We live by Ukrainian laws and the Constitution. We are the Ukrainian government and continue our activities. Today we even managed to pay salaries to Chernobyl staff, as the Treasury had started working. We had problems with Internet connection for a long time. Today there are no such problems. Our partner Ukrtelecom helps us. Everything is as it should be. Everything works. There are no changes of authorty. We do not accept and will not accept any demands. Their only requirement was giving up weapons.

As the Mayor of Slavutych, do you plan to stay in the city and work?

Of course. Please don't insult me.

Photo: TV MediaDom Slavutich

Excuse me.

That is not something to be questioned. We want to create municipal police. It is clear that the National Police is not in the city at the moment. That's why we organize our own police. It will be our Ukrainian police. We don't need any other supervisors here. We will control our own law and order. We are ready for this, and we will control the situation ourselves.

Will it consist of local people who stay in the city?

That is the case. There must be law and order. We understand that lootings are also possible. It has been hard for people to queue [for food]. The queues are really long. Some people are arguing with each other. Therefore, someone needs to bring order. And it will be done by our Ukrainian local authorities. Believe me, local authorities in Ukraine are now one of the most powerful. And in cooperation with the central, they are invincible.

What help does the city need from the central government right now?

We have a clear line of communication. We are being helped. It is clear that we cannot receive in to the extent that we need it now. Because the route to us is very complicated, and no one can change it now. No one can pave the highway in the woods for tens of kilometers. We work within the existing conditions. Support is comprehensive at all levels. I have no complaints.

Yuriy Fomichev during rally in Slavutych on March 26, 2022.
Photo: Screenshot from TV MediaDom Slavutich
Yuriy Fomichev during rally in Slavutych on March 26, 2022.

The communication is with government or other authorities?

[We have it] with regional authorities, state. At all levels. The whole of Ukraine today is a single organism.

But the issue of providing food for people in the city is already so acute.

People haven't bought anything for a month. All our shops are closed. There is nothing there. There is nothing at all, nothing to eat or take away. That's why we bring aid in small portions and distribute it. In limited quantities so the people have something to eat, cook, and feed their children. And we are constantly working to ensure the availability of local products, milk, potatoes. We bake our bread from the flour we gather around. We also grind it ourselves. This is a multifaceted process carried out in many directions.

Fierce battles took place all the time. Are there any estimates of the number of people killed by the enemy?

We are currently confirming three deaths. The fourth person was seriously injured today. Two others were also wounded. So far, that's all we have confirmed. But we can't get to the battlefield. It happened in the woods, in the suburbs. We do not yet know whether the territory there is mined.

Photo: Screenshot from TV MediaDom Slavutich

Anna SteshenkoAnna Steshenko, Journalist
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