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Belarus, Ukraine, Russia grieving over Chernobyl anniversary

MINSK, April 26 (Itar-Tass) - All Orthodox and Catholic churches in Belarus hold prayers for people who died or fell ill as a result of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident on the disaster's remembrance. In Minsk, a commemorative rally was held at a square outside an Orthodox Chapel built by the Belarusian Interior Ministry officers and the Ministry of Emergency Situations in memory of the liquidators and victims of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident.

Flowers and wreaths were lain at the monuments and obelisks to the Heroes of Chernobyl. The Belarusian opposition held an authorized traditional action in Minsk titled “The Route of Chernobyl." “The material damage incurred on Belarus by the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident can be commeasured only to the losses in the Great Patriotic War,” President Alexander Lukashenko said on the occasion of the sad date. Fascists destroyed 619 Belarusian villages while Belarus lost 485 settlements in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident. “Belarus received the main blow of the Chernobyl disaster: 70% of all radioactive substances fell out on the Belarusian territory, 3,600 villages, a home to one fifth of the Belarusian population, were located in the contaminated area,” Lukashenko went on to say.

In the first months of the tragedy Belarus sent 115,000 liquidators and five chemical protection and civil defence regiments to Chernobyl. “Over the past 20 years Belarus has spent 20 billion dollars on these purposes,” the president said. According to official information, Belarus will allocate one trillion roubles or about 360 million dollars for the development of the accident-stricken areas. The victims and heroes of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident were also be remembered in Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine mourns the victims of the Chernobyl power plant accident on the disaster’s 23rd anniversary on April 26. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has lain wreaths to “The Heroes of Chernobyl” memorial in Kiev and has attend a memorial service for the dead. Flowers were also lain at the “Soldiers of Chernobyl” monument. National flags will fly at half-mast at all government buildings on Sunday.

A fire that broke out on the fourth power unit early on April 26, 1986 is one of the biggest man-induced disasters in the world. A series of thermal explosions at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant destroyed a reactor located 120 km away from the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Huge amounts of radioactive substances were emitted into the atmosphere. The aggregate emission of radioactive materials accounted for 50 million curies, which is equal to explosions of 500 atomic bombs like the one that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Fifty thousand square kilometers of territory were contaminated in Ukraine and more than three million people were affected by the disaster. The 23rd anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident was also observed in St. Petersburg.

Rallies and meetings were held at the city cemeteries where the disaster liquidators are buried. St. Petersburg has five public organizations uniting the victims of radiation. The Chernobyl liquidators and their families face great social problems, which is traditionally the main topic of discussion at the annual meetings on April 26. St. Petersburg has about nine thousand people who were subject to radiation back in 1986. Six and a half thousand of them liquidated the accident in Chernobyl. Half of them are invalids. The heads of the Russian Emergencies Ministry, the Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation, the ambassadors of Russia and Ukraine have honoured the memory of Chernobyl’s liquidators at the Mitino cemetery where 28 firefighters are buried. Twenty-three years ago fire fighters from all the 15 republic of the former USSR fought the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. For them the tragedy was a common grief.


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