Chernobyl nuclear power plant workers and government officials gathered on Wednesday to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the nuclear disaster that occurred in 1986. The ceremony included a visit to the monument of the workers who died in the aftermath of the disaster, and the laying of flowers by Ukraine’s Ecology Minister Ruslan Strilets and other officials.
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The explosion at the plant in Soviet Ukraine led to the release of radioactive material across Europe. The immediate aftermath of the disaster resulted in the deaths of about 30 plant workers and firefighters. The explosion caused many more deaths from radiation-related illnesses over time.
Last year, Russian forces seized the now-defunct Chernobyl plant in late February but withdrew weeks later. Strilets, after awarding the workers, emphasized the importance of honoring those who spent weeks at the plant during the Russian occupation.
Officials in Ukraine have accused Moscow of exploiting safety concerns raised by its occupation of Ukrainian nuclear plants to try to blackmail Ukraine.
The Chernobyl disaster remains one of the worst nuclear accidents in history, with its aftermath having a profound impact on public health and the environment. The site has been abandoned since the disaster, with only a few workers allowed to enter the area for maintenance and monitoring purposes.
Ukraine has been working to transform the exclusion zone into a recovery zone, and the new safe confinement structure, which was completed in 2019, aims to contain any remaining radioactive materials for the next century.