Aerial view of the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Kyiv Oblast shortly after the nuclear disaster that had occurred in the early hours of 26 April 1986 - two explosions destroyed the 4th nuclear reactor and its facility, releasing a plume of radioactive fallout high into the air across swaths of Europe and contaminating the nearby area. Photo: Official imagery.
In a new book, The Chernobyl Dossier of the KGB: From Construction to the Accident (in Ukrainian), Kyiv’s Security Service includes 229 KGB documents, of which 190 are being published for the first time.
Anton Drobovych, director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, says that the new materials provide important details on why the accident happened and why problems that officials had known about in detail for years were not corrected before the April 1986 disaster. Kyiv officials tried to get Moscow’s attention to these situations but without success.
Officers of the KGB of the Ukrainian SSR were responsible for the security of the site, but from the beginning, they devoted more attention to trying to identify supposed agents from Germany or China or representatives of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists all of whom were thought interested in destroying the atomic power plant.
But despite that focus, the KGB also considered the quality of construction materials being shipped to the site and of the work of those who first were building the facility and then operating it. Again and again, they identified shortcomings in both, as the documents in the new book attest. They reported, Kyiv tried to do something, but Moscow ignored both.
According to the KGB, operators of the plant often ignored their own rules in their rush to produce. And they were quite prepared to put peoples’ lives at risk. In at least one case, an operator sold fish he had caught in a radioactive pond to people living nearby in order to supplement his income.
After the accident took place on 26 April 1986, KGB officers on the scene first reported that it was the result of diversionary forces. But when no evidence could be found of their existence, the Soviet security agency blamed human error rather than problems with the materials used in the facility.
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