Leaders guilty of Chernobyl cover-up, probe finds Authorities accused of a 'total lie' END OF THE SOVIET UNION

December 23, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

KIEV, Ukraine -- A parliamentary commission, concluding a sweeping probe of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, has accused Communist leaders of the time, including Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, of a large-scale criminal cover-up that led to thousands of deaths.

Soviet authorities reacted to the worst accident in the history of nuclear power with "a total lie, falsehoods, cover-up and concealment," said Volodymyr Yavorivsky, chairman of the commission.

The panel's report, submitted to Ukraine's legislature this month, is packed with details of high-level callousness and cynicism.

In Pripyat, a bedroom community outside Chernobyl with a population of 49,000, the party chief ordered weddings to proceed the day of the accident despite a shower of radioactivity, the report said, in an effort to persuade people that nothing was amiss.

The commission, after gaining access to documents that had been kept secret by the now-dissolved Ukrainian Communist Party, concluded that "everyone in the upper echelons of power knew everything" as early as 1 p.m. April 26, 1986, less than 12 hours after an explosion and fire wrecked Chernobyl's No. 4 reactor.

"Already on April 26, the party leadership had secret information about the destruction of the active zone of the reactor, the discharge of radioactive particles into the open air and the danger to the health of tens of thousands," Mr. Yavorivsky said.

For years, Moscow-based officials said they had been victimized as much as anyone by misinformation about Chernobyl, since Ukrainian authorities supposedly deceived them about what had happened. The Ukrainian report, however, says that Kremlin leaders were rapidly informed of the seriousness of the accident.

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