Amid war, Ukraine marks 37th anniversary of Chornobyl disaster
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stands for a minute of silence before the monument in Kyiv to the liquidators of the Chornobyl disaster. April 26, 2023 is the 37th anniversary of the disaster (Photo:Office of the President of Ukraine)
Marking the 37th anniversary of the disaster at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on April 26 honored the memory of the liquidators who died tackling the reactor fire at the plant.
In the presence of an honor guard, the president laid flowers at the memorial mound "To the Heroes of Chornobyl" in Kyiv’s Dniprovskiy District on the left (eastern) bank of the Dnipro.
“Thirty-seven years ago, the accident at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant left a huge scar for the whole world,” Zelenskyy said.
“A radiation leak turned a once cozy and developed area into an exclusion zone. Today, the 30-kilometer zone around the Chornobyl nuclear power plant remains a dangerous place with a high concentration of radiation."
Russian soldiers found that out to their cost just over a year ago, when invasion troops briefly seized control of the station, which is about 100 kilometers to the north of Kyiv, during their failed operation to capture the Ukrainian capital and topple the government.
Russian invasion force soldiers, after digging trenches in the “Red Forest” – an area of woodland near the nuclear plant so contaminated with radiation that all the pine trees died and turned a red color – are reported to have fallen ill with radiation sickness.
Zelenskyy said Ukraine and the world paid a high price for eliminating the consequences of the disaster, which are still felt today.
The president and other officials, including his chief of staff Andriy Yermak, then honored the victims of the disaster with a minute of silence.
The fourth reactor of the Chornobyl nuclear plant exploded and went on fire after operators bungled a safety test. The situation was exacerbated by design flaws in the Soviet-era reactor.
The fire released huge amounts of radiation, which spread west over Europe and reached as far as the British Isles.
The Soviet authorities did not initially admit that the disaster had occurred, allowing a May Day parade to go ahead as usual in Kyiv. The first the world knew of the disaster was when radiation alarms were triggered at a nuclear power plant in Sweden as the cloud of nuclear particles released by the plant started to sweep over the continent of Europe.
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