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Thursday, 26 April, 2001, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
Media recalls Chernobyl
Firefighting helicopters over the scene of the Chernobyl explosion
The explosion blew off the reactor's 1,000-tonne roof
The media in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia have been reflecting on the disaster at Chernobyl nuclear power station, on the 15th anniversary of the explosion.

The mood was particularly sombre in Belarus - where 70% of the radiation fell - and in Ukraine where President Leonid Kuchma led a remembrance ceremony in the capital Kiev.

A concrete sarcophagus was erected around the reactor
A concrete sarcophagus was erected around the reactor
Thousands of people have died from radiation and millions more in the region have suffered health problems.

"Maybe hundreds of years will pass before the Belarussian people have finally got rid of the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster," deputy emergencies minister Enver Baryew told Belarussian radio

In Moscow the media also traded some grim statistics.

Double disaster

"On 26 April 1986 the word Chernobyl burst into history in a radioactive cloud," the Russian daily Izvestiya said.

Even the icons are radioactive
Believers are warned that even the icons in the area are radioactive
"Today it is a town best forgotten. It will remain hazardous for another 24,000 years," it added.

Many newspapers and radio and TV broadcasts focused on the continuing damage to the economies of Ukraine and Belarus.

Every year 20% of Belarus's state budget and 10% of Ukraine's is spent on dealing with the aftermath of Chernobyl, Russian Public TV said.

The TV noted that this is the first anniversary since the Chernobyl plant was finally closed last December and that this year's anniversary was a "double disaster".

There is no work and no welfare programme for the employees who with their families number more than 20,000.

Ghost town

Pripyat fairground is deserted
No child has ever played at this fairground in Pripyat
One of the more poignant reports was shown on Russian NTV television whose reporter went to the "dead" town of Pripyat, 7km north of Chernobyl.

He described Pripyat as what towns will probably look like "after mankind vanishes from the face of the earth."

"There are no people here, not a single living soul," he said.

The TV showed pictures of a fairground which was due to open just after the accident. "No child has ever ridden on the merry-go-round here," he said.

Cover-up


An accident has occurred at Chernobyl nuclear power station. One of the atomic reactors has been damaged. Measures are being taken to eliminate the consequences of the accident. Aid is being given to the victims. A government commission has been set up

Moscow Radio, 28 April 1986

Thursday's media coverage is in stark contrast to the reporting at the time. The first terse report came two days after the accident and was the fourth item in Moscow Radio's evening news bulletin.

The initial media cover-up of the scale of the accident, which happened a year after Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, helped give rise to the programme of Glasnost (Openness) and Perestroika (Reconstruction) which led ultimately to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russian Public TV regretted that many of the pledges of financial assistance made by the West had not been carried out.

Candles will be lit and speeches made about this "black day", but Ukraine still faced the problem on its own.

"Tomorrow the problem of Chernobyl will be forgotten once again - until the next anniversary," the TV said.

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See also:

26 Apr 01 | Europe
UN plea for Chernobyl victims
15 Dec 00 | Europe
Chernobyl shut down for good
10 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Chernobyl's effects linger on
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