Ukraine forest fire spreading towards Chernobyl

The fire is spreading rapidly Credit: REUTERS/Andrew Kravchenko/

Ukraine's largest forest fire for 23 years is spreading rapidly - and travelling towards the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Emergency services are currently battling to contain the blaze in northern Ukraine, as high winds propel it towards the exclusion zone around the plant, which was the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster in 1986.

Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk insisted that "the situation is under control".

"Our state emergency services are working very actively to localise the fires," he said. "Three planes, one helicopter and several vehicles have been deployed. And serious forces, including those from the interior ministry, are being used to prevent fires from spreading."

The forests around Chernobyl are still contaminated with dangerous isotopes, and experts worry that fires could spread them.

The disaster in 1986 was caused by a fire at the Chernobyl facility's Reactor 4, which is covered with a concrete casement that the Ukrainian authorities plan to replace by 2016.