Chernobyl-Hit Regions in Russian Federation Get Little Attention and Ever Less Support
May 1 – Most people in Russia and the West link the Chernobyl tragedy to
Belarus and Ukraine, the two republics hardest-hit by the 1986 nuclear
disaster, forgetting that adjoining regions of the Russian Federation were also
affected and that 1.3 million of the five million people still living in
contaminated areas are Russian citizens.
Sharipkin, an RFI correspondent, says such forgetfulness has made it easier for
Russian officials to do even less than their Belarusian and Ukrainian
counterparts to protect the population and clean up the region, leaving the
southwestern portion of Bryansk oblast “simply terra incognita” as far as
Chernobyl is concerned (ru.rfi.fr/rossiya/20160428-rossiiskii-chernobyl-zabytye-no-obitaemye-pustoshi).
is striking, the journalist continues, in comparison with Ukraine and Belarus,
there are “practically no signs warning about radiation dangers” in
contaminated parts of the Russian Federation. As a result, what should remain
an exclusion zone is completely open for anyone who wants to come and go,
picnic, fish, collect mushrooms and so on.
the Soviet authorities declared two-thirds of the districts of Bryansk oblast
to have been contaminated and made plans to resettle residents, including all
40,000 people in the city of Novozybkov. “But after calculating the cost, they
decided that it would be simper to remove the top and most contaminated later
of the ground.”
at that time, Greenpeace says, Soviet officials evacuated Russians from these
places only when there were much higher levels of cesium-137 than those that
led Belarusian and Ukrainian officials to act.As a result, Russians living in contaminated areas were and still are
exposed to more radiation than those in the neighboring countries.
situation became worse, Sharipkin says, last October when the Russian
government reclassified most of the cities and villages in Bryansk that had
been “zones of resettlement” into “zones with the right to resettle,” a
downshifting that meant there was less money and less support available to those
who seek to move out of this area.
the same time, the Russian government eliminated many of the benefits it had
earlier offered Russians in the contaminated areas, including free admission to
universities, supplements to pay and pensions, longer vacations, and earlier
retirement ages for both men and women. Residents wanted to protest but were
talked out of it by officials.
local activist says that he and others will turn to the courts to seek a return
of these benefits to at least those who have been living permanently in Bryansk
oblast since 1986. At present, they have launched a petition drive in support
of that goal.
Russians in Bryansk oblast are motivated both by the findings of outside
experts like Greenpeace that radiation levels are still well above those deemed
safe even by Russian officials who continue to insist that now “everything is
normal” and by higher than average rates of cancer and other diseases among the
they are also agitated by the fact that the cutbacks in government subsidies
mean that they will be forced to eat more locally produced food, much of which
is radioactive. That in turn means that for the Russian victims of Chernobyl,
the next 30 years may be even worse than the last.