Two tragedies caused by Moscow: the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the occupation of the Chernobyl zone


April 26, 1986 was the day of the greatest man-made disaster in the history of mankind. On the Day of Remembrance of Chernobyl, we remember the events related to the Soviet “peaceful atom”.

According to the definition of UNSCEAR and WHO, the Chernobyl disaster is classified as a nuclear facility accident of the highest level. For 10 days — from April 26 to May 6 — the release of radioactive substances from the damaged reactor continued at the level of tens of millions of curies per day, after which it decreased thousands of times.

The Chernobyl nuclear power plant was subordinated to Moscow. On April 25, 1986, at the Chornobyl NPP, the fourth power unit was supposed to be stopped experimentally in order to study the possibility of using the inertia of the turbogenerator in case of loss of power supply. Despite the fact that the technical circumstances did not correspond to the test plan, it was not canceled. The decision was made in Moscow.

“Peaceful Soviet atom”. Photo: Oleksiy Samsonov

During the experiment, two explosions occurred at the 4th reactor. A cloud of radioactive dust escaped into the Earth’s atmosphere, the reactor was completely destroyed. More than 30 fires broke out. The main ones were put out after an hour, and the fire was completely extinguished by 5 am on April 26.

According to the words Anatoly Demskyi, former head of the sector of the nuclear power plant safety department of the Ukrainian SSR, the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant could not be prevented, it was programmed in the very ideology of the design of the reactor, which was supposed to work with the safety systems disabled.

He named the reasons that led to the accident, including political ones, because the CPSU wanted to sell more electricity abroad, to produce radioactive elements for nuclear weapons. Demsky said this at a briefing at the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center.

Ruins of Pripyat. Photo: Oleksiy Samsonov

Realizing that an environmental disaster of this scale would have negative consequences for the communist regime, the leadership of the USSR chose a course to silence it. All information about the Chernobyl disaster immediately came under the ideological control of the CPSU and the KGB.

On April 27, at 11:00 p.m., the Danish Nuclear Research Laboratory recorded an MPA (Maximum Design Accident) accident at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor.

At the same time, a sharp increase in the radiation background was also registered in Sweden. The next day, the Swedish authorities had information about the source of the pollution and turned to Moscow with a demand to provide an explanation. At the same time, the Swedes removed 600 personnel from their nuclear plant, which was located thousands of kilometers from Chernobyl, for the sake of safety! This fact led Ihor Kulyk, Director of the Branch State Archive of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance at a briefing at UKMC.


According to the data of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, based on the estimates of independent experts, 500,000 people died from radiation. 8.5 million residents of Ukraine and neighboring countries received significant doses of radiation in the coming days after the accident.

According to the number of accident victims, Ukraine ranks first among the former republics of the Soviet Union. 2,293 Ukrainian cities and towns with a population of approximately 2.6 million people are contaminated with radioactive nuclides.


In an interview Lyudmila Julai, a paramedic from Pripyat spoke about the first victims of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

According to the woman, the people were crimson in color – as if they were badly burned on the beach. “Ambulance” brought the first injured people at night. In particular, Volodymyr Shashenka was immediately admitted to intensive care. During the explosion, he received numerous injuries, a broken spine and terrible burns from radioactive steam. The flow of radiation-affected firefighters and station employees was huge.

There were no means of protection. Lyudmila Julai remembers that she received iodine tablets only on the evening of April 26, together with all the residents of Pripyat. Pills were delivered to apartments. Medics collected the irradiated clothes, shoes, underwear, fire helmets and tarpaulin robes of the victims into a pile and carried them to the basement with their bare hands. All these radioactive things are still “sounding” there.

In the ruins of the cultural center in Pripyat. Photo: Oleksiy Samsonov


According to Igor Kulik, there were 37 accidents at the stations. The first accidents at the Chernobyl NPP occurred in 1978-1979, right after the first power unit was launched. There were also radiation leaks in 1982, 1983, 1984. The archive of the State Security Committee (KGB) contains documents about the construction of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, its launch in the late 1970s, the accident and the liquidation of its consequences. The documents prove that from the very beginning of the construction of this nuclear power plant, there were many violations and thefts, construction and installation work was performed poorly, technological discipline was violated. All this eventually led to an accident.

Only from 1983 to 1985, there were five accidents and 63 equipment failures at the station. The last such incident before the big accident happened in February 1986.

“In 1986, there were two accidents at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant: the first radiation leak occurred in February, but only the KGB knew about it. Many documents show that there are many violations at the station. As early as December 1976, the Pripyat KGB unit recorded constant facts of violations during construction, theft of materials, that the construction managers deliberately committed violations in order to have time to hand over the object by the next communist deadline. This is typical of totalitarian regimes, where the system is more important than the lives and safety of people,” said Kulyk.

He also emphasized that the Chernobyl disaster was one of the catalysts for the collapse of the USSR. The government’s concealment of the truth about the fact of the disaster and its consequences, the lack of information about safety measures and insufficient assistance to the victims shook the faith in the value of the communist idea even among its most loyal supporters.


The State Agency of Ukraine for the Management of the Exclusion Zone talked about what was done over the years that separated us from a terrible accident.

At its own expense and with the assistance of international partners, Ukraine overcame the consequences of the nuclear accident for more than three decades and achieved significant success in the implementation of international projects to decommission the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and transform the “Shelter” facility into an environmentally safe system.

Construction of confinement. Photo: Borys Korpusenko

During this time, a new safe confinement (“arch” is an extremely complex engineering object) was built and operated there above the “Shelter” facility. Also, the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel of the Chernobyl NPP was put into operation, the construction of the facilities of the industrial complex for solid radioactive waste management was completed and put into operation; a liquid radioactive waste processing plant was put into operation and is in operation. In 2016, the Chernobyl Radiation and Ecological Biosphere Reserve was created.


April 4, 2023 is the anniversary of the de-occupation of the Chernobyl zone. At 5 a.m. on February 24, 2022, the Chernobyl zone shuddered from the aggressor’s volleys at the border and customs checkpoints. By 11 a.m. the territory of the zone was occupied by the occupiers, at 5 p.m. the Russian military occupied the territory of the Ivankiv district of the Kyiv region.

Mines and projectiles of the occupiers found in the zone of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Photo: Oleksiy Samsonov

Yevhen Kramarenko, head of the State Agency for Management of the Exclusion Zone (DAZV). said that when they got to the zone after the de-occupation, they saw the destroyed checkpoint “Dityatka”, destroyed bridges, damaged buildings, offices, traces of stolen equipment and destroyed property. The North Forest bus depot was empty, fire equipment for extinguishing forest fires in the area was stolen from it. The administration building of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant remained partially undamaged because the leadership of the occupiers was based there and the Ukrainian personnel who serviced the plant were kept there.

Ukrainian specialists were held hostage for 35 days, because they did not change him. 169 National Guardsmen guarding the station were held captive in a separate room. They were locked in an anti-radiation bunker and were not released from there for 35 days. On the last day, they were taken captive to the Russian Federation. Unfortunately, the fate of most of them is currently unknown.

According to Kramarenko, the Rashists started looting everything around in the last days, when their leadership left, and the soldiers climbed around the premises, pulling out kettles, coffee makers, and office equipment. Everything they could take with them, even samples of radioactive substances from the laboratory.

Chernobyl forest after the explosions. Photo: Kyrylo Stepanets

The head of DAZV says that at that time they were particularly impressed by the excavation of the soil in the place where the point of temporary localization of radioactive waste located in the Red Forest is located. This is a very dangerous place.

“When we saw those trenches, we were amazed at the attitude of the Russian commanders towards the soldiers. After all, during the month that they lived there, the soldiers will definitely die, and most likely – quickly – or slowly. This is the most dangerous exposure that they were able to get in the zone of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant — exposure with dust that entered the body through the respiratory tract,” says Kramarenko.

Fortunately, the main radiation facilities in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant area remained undamaged. Among them are the Centralized Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel and the “Shelter” facility. In April 2022, safety standards for nuclear fuel storage facilities were restored in Chernobyl.

After the de-occupation of the Chernobyl zone, researchers from the capital visited there, who claimed that the forest stinks of the occupiers.


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