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Secret KGB Documents on Chornobyl Disaster Made Public

Chornobyl memory

The State Archive of the Security Service of Ukraine made public secret KGB documents: the first report on the explosion filed by Chornobyl NPP director Viktor Bryukhanov to the higher management, conversations of the plant operators at the time of the accident, and the evacuation of almost 45,000 residents of Prypyat town and surrounding areas.

Little-known facts hidden by the Soviet authorities:

  • Archival records indicate that accidents at the Chornobyl NPP occurred even before 26 April 1986. For example, a significant release of radioactive substances occurred at Unit No. 1 in 1982. But the KGB report on the accident ends with the usual wording “measures were taken to prevent panic and provocative rumours.” In 1984, emergencies occurred at Unit No. 3 and Unit No. 4.
  • In 1983, the Moscow leadership received information that the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant was one of the most dangerous nuclear power plants in the USSR due to lack of security safeguards. In case of an accident, the radioactivity was estimated to be “60 times higher than during the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
  • After the disaster, the Soviet authorities searched for various “conspiracy theories” but did not accept reality. Already on 27 April, a list of “unreliable” residents of Prypyat town, foreign delegations who visited the Chornobyl NPP, as well as “sectarians, representatives of German nationality and those who send letters abroad” was ready. Later, documents emerged, claiming that “nationalists” wanted to obtain samples of contaminated soil through an “intelligence network in Kyiv” in order to discredit the Soviet leadership in the world.
  • On 8 July 1986, a directive was issued that classified all the details of the Chornobyl disaster: its causes, nature of destruction, composition of mixture released into the air during the explosion, radiation status, scale of liquidation, disease incidence, and other information.
  • In October 1987, a French newspaper correspondent, Jean-Pierre Vodoeun, tried to take soil and water samples from Prypyat abroad. However, in a secret report, the KGB reported a successful special operation: samples taken by the foreigner were replaced with nonradioactive ones.

More facts about the accident can be found in two collections of “KGB’s Chornobyl Dossier” prepared by the State Archive of the Security Service of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance.  

Natalia Tolub

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