chernobyls ghost cities ukraine


Pripyat: The Ukrainian Ghost Town in Chernobyl's Shadow

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In early February 2022, as Russian troops massed on the Ukraine-Belarus border a short distance away, Ukrainian soldiers trained for the confrontation that was to come. They roamed through a deserted city, firing their guns and launching grenades and mortars in the shadows of abandoned, decaying buildings, some of which displayed the old hammer-and-sickle symbol of the defunct Soviet Union. As they went through their drills, a special radiation control unit monitored the levels to which the soldiers were being exposed, as this Reuters dispatch detailed.

The site of this eerie scene was a place called Pripyat, located near the heart of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone , a circle with a radius of nearly 19 miles (30 kilometers) around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant that suffered a catastrophic accident April 26, 1986. The area was evacuated because of high radiation levels, and Pripyat, once a thriving city of 50,000, including many workers at the nuclear plant, was abandoned. Over time, its urban landscape became overgrown with trees and vines.

Though in recent years, people increasingly have ventured into the zone, the onetime Soviet atomgrad – Russian for "atomic city" – has never been repopulated. Instead, its crumbling buildings serve as a reminder of the danger of nuclear power when it's not properly managed and safeguards prove inadequate.


Pripyat Was a Modern City Before Disaster Struck

How much radiation was pripyat exposed to, what is the town like now, will pripyat ever be reinhabited.

There was a time when Pripyat was a showcase of Soviet atomic-age futurism. "It was a very nice place," recalls Andrei Korobkov , a professor of political science and international relations at Middle Tennessee State University, who visited the city in the late 1970s, less than a decade after it was built to accommodate nuclear workers. "It was a very modern city, built from scratch." Pripyat's modern architecture — a contrast to the much smaller town of Chernobyl, which dated back to the late 12th century – was designed "to emphasize that it was associated with high-tech, and modern achievements."

Pripyat was a complete community with a shopping district, medical facilities, schools and a residential area composed mostly of apartment buildings, Korobkov recalls. Unlike some other atomgrads, Pripyat wasn't connected to the Soviet nuclear weapons program, so it wasn't closed to outsiders.

When the accident at Chernobyl occurred, Pripyat – located just under 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the nuclear plant – was in a perilous spot.

"Since the radiation doses and levels of contamination are generally highest in the region within a few miles of an radiological release, individuals located that close were clearly in serious danger from both exposure to the radioactive plumes and to contamination of the ground and structures," explains Edwin Lyman, a physicist and director of nuclear power safety for the Union of Concerned Scientists, who visited the city 20 years later.

"However, at the time of the Unit 4 explosion early in the morning on April 26," he says, "the prevailing winds were to the west and did not blow directly in the direction of Pripyat, so fortunately the town did not encounter the highest dose rates immediately following the accident, and the residents were largely spared the worst consequences."


Even so, Lyman notes, air dose rates ranged up to 0.01 rem per hour in Pripyat on the day of the explosion – hundreds of times the normal background rate.

"To put that in perspective, international standards generally recommend that members of the public do not receive more than 0.1 rem from artificial sources in an entire year, and standards such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's protective action guides recommend evacuation if the expected dose will exceed 1 rem (whole-body exposure) in four days," Lyman writes in an email. "In addition, there was a distinct risk from inhalation of radioactive iodine in the plume. Thus, prompt evacuation of these areas was clearly appropriate."

The authorities hesitated to order an evacuation until late evening on the day of the accident, Lyman says. Though the town was cleared of people by the following day, the average whole-body dose to the Pripyat evacuees was estimated at around 2 rem, according to Lyman.

"This was well below the dose at which acute effects occur, but could increase the lifetime risk of cancer by a few percent," Lyman says. "However, thyroid exposures were more significant, especially for young children. Even though the evacuees were given stable potassium iodide, they delayed taking it until it was too late."

How much the radiation affected their health remains unclear. A 2021 paper published in Frontiers in Endocrinology found that the rate of thyroid cancer increased in people who lived in the Chernobyl region, but the health of Pripyat's evacuees wasn't broken out in the study.

In recent years, adventurous travelers have been visiting the uninhabited city to get a peek at the ruins. Adam Mark, an urban explorer whose YouTube channel, Adam Mark Explores , is devoted to abandoned places, roamed around Pripyat in the fall of 2021, months before the Russian invasion.

"Exploring Chernobyl and Pripyat was something I've always wanted to do," Mark explains in an email. "I didn't really think of the danger. When considering the trip, I thought of some of the guides that have been entering the exclusion zone for years that seem to be fine, which did put my mind at ease as well. I didn't experience any after effects; we were constantly checked when entering and leaving the zone."

Mark found that even 36 years after Pripyat was abandoned, evidence of the everyday lives of its inhabitants remained. "One of the most surprising things I saw was the kindergarten. Seeing all the children's toys, cots and shoes still left was a real eye opener and the closest thing I've seen to an apocalyptic world," he says. "The whole city was surreal. Another surprise was seeing the hospital with the equipment left, and the morgue."

But Mark also saw abandoned buildings in various states of decay. "It was eerily beautiful seeing nature do what it does and take back these huge [human]-made structures," he recalls.

Mark was careful to monitor the radiation levels to which he was exposed during the visit, and not to stay for too long. Living there for an extended period would be more hazardous, according to Lyman.


"This area received some of the highest contamination levels," Lyman says. "After a few years, the main isotope of concern for habitability is cesium-137, which emits a powerful gamma ray, and has a half-life of 30 years, meaning that today about half the cesium-137 released during the accident is still in the environment, although much of it has been dispersed and some of it has been removed and buried. Even so, the average dose rates in the area today remain several times above typical background levels, and there are numerous hot spots. Therefore, the risk to a casual visitor for a short time is pretty low, which is why tourism has been allowed. But most of the area has not been resettled. However, when I was there in 2006, I did see some signs of people living in the exclusion zone, although not in Pripyat proper."

Though it's conceivable that Pripyat someday could be resettled, Lyman doesn't think that's a good idea.

"Over time, the radiation levels are decreasing, and it's always possible to decontaminate an area – it's primarily a matter of cost," he says. "But given its location, its proximity to the ruined reactor site, and its location near the center of the exclusion zone that still has more highly contaminated areas, I don't think there is much reason to try to restore it to habitability."

Instead, "perhaps it's best left as a museum and a stark reminder of the consequences that can occur if nuclear power plants are not regulated and operated to the highest safety standard," Lyman says. "It is a chilling place to visit -- a once-thriving town that is a snapshot in time of a terrible moment in history and has been left to be reclaimed by nature."

Mark said he was startled to see that invading Russian soldiers were venturing into Chernobyl's Red Forest, where they reportedly dug trenches and disturbed the radioactive soil, according to . "The readings we got there were into the double figures, so I don't know what possessed them to dig the ground up," he says.

Please copy/paste the following text to properly cite this article:

Chernobyl’s ghost town

Gleb Garanich

The sarcophagus covering part of the old Chernobyl nuclear power plant looms in the distance behind graffiti of a screaming child in the city of Prypiat.

Prypiat is now a ghost town, having fallen victim to the worst nuclear power accident in history. It was evacuated after a reactor exploded at the Chernobyl plant twenty-seven years ago, on April 26, 1986, sending a cloud of radioactive dust up into the air.

Before & After

Before: Pedestrians walk down the street in Prypiat in 1982, four years before the Chernobyl disaster. After: The area stands abandoned 25 years after the nuclear reactor explosion.

Before: People bustle through Prypiat in 1982. After: The city stands empty and choked with undergrowth almost 30 years later.

A crucifix stands in the deserted city.

Scattered furniture, debris and a broken cello lie inside a building.

A child's gas mask and a broken doll sit on rusty bed frames inside an old kindergarten.

Another child's gas mask and a shoe lie covered in dust and leaves.

Graffiti adorns a peeling wall inside a building.

A sports gym stands empty, save a few pieces of rusted equipment.

A clock hangs on the wall of an old swimming pool.

Disused appliances litter a room.

Old Soviet placards lie piled up in a building.

Graffiti is seen on a wall in the abandoned city.

Rusting amusement rides lie under the snow.

An old ferris wheel stands in the city.

Trees grow thickly by the roadside.

The ghost town is seen from above.

Smoke rises from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant shortly after the explosion of its fourth reactor in 1986. Radioactive dust was sent billowing across northern and western Europe, reaching as far as the eastern United States.

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Chernobyl's ghost town - in pictures

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Defend Chernobyl During an Invasion? Why Bother, Some Ukrainians Ask.

Ukraine has initiated a defensive strategy for the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, one of the most radioactive places on Earth, which lies on the shortest path between Russia and Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

The abandoned town of Pripyat, Ukraine, near the Ukraine-Belarus border. The town was evacuated on April 27, 1986, the day after the Chernobyl disaster.

By Andrew E. Kramer

Photographs by Tyler Hicks

CHERNOBYL, Ukraine — Ukrainian soldiers, Kalashnikov rifles slung over their shoulders, patrolled through a silent, snowy forest, passing homes so long abandoned that vines twirl through the broken windows.

The fields are fallow, the cities deserted and the entire Chernobyl zone in northern Ukraine is still so radioactive it would seem the last place on Earth anybody would want to conquer.

But while most of the attention around a potential invasion by Russia is focused on troop buildups and daily hostilities in the east, the shortest route from Russia to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, is from the north. And it passes through the isolated zone around the Chernobyl power plant, where the meltdown of a reactor in 1986 caused the worst nuclear disaster in history.

In one of the incongruities of war, that makes Chernobyl an area that Ukraine thinks it needs to defend, forcing its military to deploy security forces into the eerie and still radioactive forest, where they carry both weapons and equipment to detect radiation exposure.

“It doesn’t matter if it is contaminated or nobody lives here,” said Lt. Col. Yuri Shakhraichuk of the Ukrainian border guard service. “It is our territory, our country, and we must defend it.”

The Ukrainian forces in the area, known as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone , would not be sufficient to rebuff an invasion, if one came; they are there mostly to detect warning signs. “We collect information about the situation along the border” and convey it to Ukraine’s intelligence agencies, Colonel Shakhraichuk said.

The concept of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone when Soviet authorities established it three decades ago was to limit, through isolation, the lethality of the accident at the nuclear plant. Radioactive particles left in the soil or trapped under the containment structure of the destroyed reactor while they slowly decay would pose little risk to soldiers, as long as those soldiers did not linger in highly irradiated areas. But the land must be abandoned, in some places for hundreds of years.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine





Exclusion Zone

Map data by OpenStreetMap

Two months ago, the government deployed additional forces into the area, because of increased tensions with Russia and Belarus, a Kremlin ally whose border is five miles from the stricken reactor and where Russia has recently moved troops.

“How can this be?” said Ivan Kovalchuk, a Ukrainian firefighter who helped extinguish the fire at the plant in the first days after the accident, risking his life alongside Russians and people from around the former Soviet Union. He said he was outraged that Russia could potentially menace the zone militarily.

“We liquidated the accident together,” Mr. Kovalchuk said. “For them to do this to us now just makes me feel sorry for people” in Ukraine, he said.

The Chernobyl nuclear power plant’s reactor No. 4 exploded and burned during a test on April 26, 1986, releasing about 400 times more radiation than the bombing at Hiroshima . Thirty people died in the immediate aftermath of the accident, most from radiation exposure; studies of longer-term health effects have been mostly inconclusive but suggest that there could eventually be thousands of deaths from cancer.

While the zone is uninhabitable, it does draw tourists for short visits, generating some income, and is seen in Ukraine as a teachable moment on recent history.

At the time of the accident, Ukraine was a Soviet republic, and initially, the Soviet authorities tried to cover up the disaster. To avoid raising suspicions, they went ahead a few days later with May Day parades in Ukraine, marching schoolchildren through swirling radioactive dust.

This callous attitude helped stir anti-Soviet sentiment throughout Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, the republics most affected, and the accident is now seen as one cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later.

The Chernobyl zone covers about 1,000 square miles straddling the shortest direct route from the Belarusian border to Kyiv. While it is not necessarily the most likely invasion route from the north, because it is swampy and densely forested, Ukraine has not ruled it out.

Before last fall, the 700 miles of border between Ukraine and Belarus were almost unguarded, particularly in the irradiated areas. About 90 miles of the border separates the Ukrainian zone from a similarly isolated and irradiated area in Belarus, called the Polesie State Radioecological Reserve.

That changed in November amid a migrant crisis in Belarus and a troop buildup in Russia.

The two developments were ominous in combination. Moscow began massing troops in a way that suggested plans for an incursion into Ukraine via Belarus. Kyiv also feared that Belarus might create a provocation such as herding migrants toward the Ukrainian border — as Belarus did with Poland — and provide the spark for war.

Ukraine responded by deploying 7,500 additional guards to the Belarusian border. Colonel Shakhraichuk, of the border service, said he could not disclose how many went specifically to Chernobyl. But fears about an incursion from Belarus have only grown this week as Russia directs troops and equipment there ahead of planned joint exercises with Belarus in February.

Only a dozen or so soldiers were visible in the border area on a recent visit, but officials said others were patrolling elsewhere.

The zone is a sorrowful place to work. In the days after the accident, about 91,000 people were evacuated with just hours’ notice.

Forests grew around their former homes. Peering through the windows reveals clothes, shoes, dishes and other remnants of ordinary lives lying about, covered in dust and lichen.

In the largest city, Pripyat, now a ghost town, a propaganda sign still extols the virtues of civilian nuclear energy. “Let the atom be a worker not a soldier,” it reads.

The risk of a war further spreading radiation seems minimal. But one object in the zone is particularly vulnerable: a new, $1.7 billion stainless steel arch over the destroyed reactor, paid for mostly by the United States and about 30 other countries. It was completed in 2016 to prevent the spread of highly radioactive dust.

The town of Chernobyl is still partially occupied by workers who live there during rotations. They maintain the containment structure over the damaged reactor, roads and other infrastructure.

“It’s bad, it’s scary,” Elena Bofsunovska, a clerk at a grocery store, said of the possibility of military action near the destroyed reactor.

“We don’t know what will kill us first, the virus, radiation or war,” Oleksei Prishepa, a worker who was standing at the store’s counter, said with a shrug.

Mr. Prishepa said he would prefer that Ukraine set up the defensive lines further south, giving the irradiated zone over to whomever might want it. “It’s a wasteland,” he said. “No crop will ever grow here.”

Before the Russian buildup, the main security concern in Chernobyl was illegal mushroom picking and collection of scrap metal, activities that risk spreading radiation outside the zone. Police also regularly detain thrill seekers entering illegally for sightseeing.

Most of the time, soldiers on patrol face little risk from radiation. But longer-lived particles remain, creating invisible, lethally dangerous hot spots in the forest. Some emit levels of radiation thousands of times higher than normal. The soldiers have marked routes to avoid these places, which were long ago mapped by scientists.

Still, while patrolling in the zone, the soldiers must carry devices on a lanyard around their necks that continuously monitor exposure; under the protocols for patrolling in the zone, if a soldier stumbles into a highly irradiated patch, he is taken off duty to avoid further exposure.

So far, none of the border guards deployed into the zone in November have been exposed to high doses, according to Colonel Shakhraichuk.

“There are very dangerous places to avoid,” said Maj. Aleksei Vegera, who serves with the Chernobyl police force. Members of that force, accustomed to working in the area, accompany border guards on patrols.

“We do try to be careful,” he said. “But, what can I say, I’m used to it.”

Maria Varenikova contributed reporting.

Andrew E. Kramer is a reporter based in the Moscow bureau. He was part of a team that won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting for a series on Russia’s covert projection of power. More about Andrew E. Kramer

Tyler Hicks is a senior photographer for The Times. In 2014, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for his coverage of the Westgate Mall massacre in Nairobi, Kenya. More about Tyler Hicks

clock This article was published more than  6 years ago

In Ukraine, a radioactive nuclear ghost town near Chernobyl is a hot destination

An earlier version of this article incorrectly cited a Geiger counter reading as 26 sieverts per hour, rather than 26 microsieverts per hour. This version has been updated.

The button that could have started a nuclear holocaust is gray — not red.

I learned this after climbing into a nuclear rocket command silo, 12 floors below ground, and sitting in the same green chair at the same yellow, metal console at which former Soviet officers once presided. Here, they practiced entering secret codes into their gray keyboards, pushing the launch button and turning a key — all within seven seconds — to fire up to 10 ballistic missiles. The officers never knew what day their practice codes might become real, nor did they know their targets.

This base in Pervomaysk, Ukraine — about a four-hour drive from Kiev — once had 86 intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of destroying cities in Europe and the United States. Though the nuclear warheads have been removed, the command silo with much of its equipment, giant trucks that carried the rockets to the base and an empty silo were preserved so that people could see what had been secretly going on at nuclear missile bases in the former Soviet Union. The museum’s collection includes the R-12/SS-4 Sandal missile similar to those involved in the Cuban missile crisis and the RS-20A/SS-18 Satan, the versions of which had several hundred times the destructive power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

“This is what the tourists come to see,” said Igor Bodnarchuk, a tour guide for Solo East Travel, a Kiev company that specializes in tours of Soviet ruins. “What else do we have to offer?”

Tourists go to Paris to marvel at the majesty of the Eiffel Tower, to Rome to stroll the cobbled streets of the Vatican, to Moscow to behold the magnificent domes of Red Square. And while Ukraine has its own plethora of domed cathedrals, including monasteries with underground caves, thousands of tourists are trekking to this country for a uniquely Soviet experience. Here, they stand outside an exploded nuclear reactor at Chernobyl and rifle through the remains of a nearby abandoned city — Geiger counter in hand. In Chernobyl’s shadow, they marvel at the giant “Moscow Eye,” an anti-ballistic-missile detector that rises 50 stories high and looks like a giant roller coaster.

Every day, a handful of travel companies ferry mostly foreigners to Chernobyl’s 19-mile “exclusion zone.” In 2016, Solo East Travel hauled 7,500 people there, up from only one trip in 2000.

“It used to be sort of extreme travel,” said Sergei Ivanchuk of Solo East Travel. “You were very brave to go to Chernobyl in 2000. Now, not so much.”

Ivanchuk insists that people who go to Chernobyl are not morbid. “They are intelligent people who want to learn something new, and are often interested in nuclear power,” he said.

Likewise, people who venture to the missile base at Pervomaysk are interested in the Cold War. “It’s a place to remember — like the Holocaust — about a dangerous time in history and what it means to have nuclear weapons,” he said.

Earlier this year, Russia deployed a new cruise missile, apparently violating its 1987 arms-control treaty with the United States. In light of that event, the Soviet ruins in Ukraine seem all the more relevant.

The day I visited the former 46th Rocket Division in Pervomaysk, silver engines gleamed in the sunlight as the temperature edged up to 22 degrees. Sticking out of the snow were missiles reminiscent of the one Major T.J. “King” Kong rode like a rodeo cowboy in the movie “Dr. Strangelove.” Nearby was a surface-to-air missile similar to the one that brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine in July 2014.

The museum tour guides are all former Soviet officers who once worked at the missile base. Ours, Gennadiy Fil’, once manned the nuclear controls. When American tourists dallied, snapping photos of the rockets above ground, he barked: “Ledz go!”

Then he darted through a heavy door of a squat building, down a series of winding stairs and through an underground tunnel, navigating by memory through the narrow, 500-foot-long passageway to the control center in a silo. The narrow cylinder is suspended from the ground — theoretically, to withstand the shock of a counterattack.

In six-hour shifts, Fil’ and another officer would descend in a tiny elevator (maximum capacity: three people) to the bottom of the silo. Stationed at metal consoles in an 11-by-11 control room, they would read secret codes from Moscow that flashed on a computer screen, then quickly tap them into a dingy yellow monitor. Then, they pressed a small, gray button and turned a key on the opposite side of the terminal to launch up to 10 nuclear rockets at once.

“You don’t launch just one missile, because the other side is going to shoot back and destroy you,” explained Elena Smerichevskaya, our Ukrainian interpreter. An intercontinental ballistic rocket fired at New York, she explained, would take about 25 minutes to hit its target.

Fil,’ 55, said he never knew when he would be ordered to input real codes. It was his job, he said and shrugged. He said he had no moral objections to pushing the button. Launching nuclear missiles was a “political decision,” something that people on top of the ground decided, not him.

He admitted that he was scared about the possibility of nuclear war. “You’d have to be crazy in the head not to be scared,” he said.

But just in case Fil’ or a fellow officer (two officers were required to launch a rocket) refused to push their buttons, reserve officers could be called up from a compartment beneath the control center.

For officers like Fil’, there were both mental and physical challenges. The compartments were hermetically sealed, and Fil’ said there was immense pressure on their ears. There were also concerns about the psychological impact of being isolated in the chambers. While the Soviets kept enough food and water on hand for 45 days, some men started to become batty after only two or three days inside the silo bunker, Smerichevskaya said.

While Fil’ is glad the world didn’t implode under his watch, he said he is sad to have lost his job behind the missile controls.

In 1994, three years after Ukraine became independent, it joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty and agreed to dismantle its 1,900 Soviet missiles. At the time, Ukraine boasted the world’s third-largest stockpile of nuclear warheads after Russia and the United States. Ukraine shipped its nuclear warheads to Russia and dismantled its silos, often blowing them up or filling them with cement. The control silo at Pervomaysk was the only one spared — so it could become a museum. The 46th Rocket Division, part of the 43rd Rocket Army, was disbanded in 2001.

As a child growing up in the Cold War who was taught to hide under her school desk in case of a nuclear attack, I found it surreal to meet a man who at the same time had his fingers on the triggers of the Soviet Union’s nuclear warheads.

Fil’ shakes his head at how things have changed. “I never thought I’d be standing here talking to an American,” he said, his eyes wide with amazement. “I never thought I’d be having my picture taken. That was absolutely forbidden. And now . . . it’s okay.”

The museum claims that its silos are very similar to those still in operation in Russia. The Satan missile is still part of Russia’s weaponry, although an improved version is set to be operational in 2018. Before Russia invaded Crimea and backed the separatists’ war on Ukraine’s eastern front, Russian soldiers frequently took their families to Pervomaysk to show them what they did at work, museum tour guides say. The missile sites in Russia remain secret.

The city of Pripyat was once a secret Soviet city, closed to anyone but workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor and their families. Now the city, an hour-and-a-half drive from Kiev, is a nuclear ghost town. Forty-nine thousand people were forced to evacuate the day after Chernobyl’s Reactor No. 4 exploded on April 26, 1986.

Nearly all the first responders and soldiers died from radiation poisoning while trying to contain the graphite fire and the radioactive particles spewing from the destroyed reactor, explained Bodnarchuk, our tour guide. Officially, only 31 firemen and soldiers were killed. But some believe that the disaster claimed at least 10,000 lives as wind carried radioactive material into Belarus and Northern Europe.

Even though critics have said that the designs of Chernobyl are outmoded and inherently unsafe, Russia reportedly is still using 11 similar nuclear reactors.

Today, visitors can stand across the street from the damaged reactor at Chernobyl, which recently was covered by a huge, $2.3 billion shield. But the highlight of the tour is, by far, the crumbling city of Pripyat. Though tour operators are warned to stay out of Pripyat’s buildings, tourists routinely stomp through the city, including the hospital where dying first responders were taken.

Tourists stick their Geiger counters against tatters of clothing in the hospital lobby and watch their machines shoot up to shockingly high levels — 85 microsieverts per hour. The normal range is .09 to .30 microsieverts per hour, according to the tour company. Most guides carry their own Geiger counters; many tourists come with their own.

Tour operators claim that a visit to Chernobyl is no more dangerous now than a flight from Ukraine to North America. This calculation includes spending 10 minutes in front of the burned-out reactor and no more than two hours in Pripyat.

Solo East Travel has a video that shows how it came up with such math. Those calculations, however, don't factor in hovering over a firefighter's highly radioactive clothing that has been dug up from deep in the hospital. Nor do they specifically include driving through the red forest near the Chernobyl reactor — where the radiation burned up all the trees, which were then bulldozed and buried. Our Geiger counters went crazy as we drove through the new-growth forest, registering 26 microsieverts per hour.

Our guide tried to calm fears about our exposure to radiation by assuring us that any high levels on our body would be detected by the machines we had to pass through on the way out of Chernobyl’s exclusion zone. Those machines — old Soviet steel contraptions that look like retro airport metal detectors — hardly inspire confidence.

To amplify tourists’ shock, guides have embellished some of the Pripyat remains: Amid hundreds of crumbling gas masks spread over the floor of an elementary school, a baby doll has been placed on a chair — wearing a gas mask. A hospital nursery has been outfitted with plastic dolls, placed in cribs with blankets, to make the scene appear even more macabre. Outside a village school building, old toys are scattered about. One-eyed teddy bears and dolls with missing limbs sit on bed springs at a village orphanage. Tables are set with plates and pots.

The most eerie scenes include an abandoned amusement park with its empty, lonely-looking Ferris wheel and bumper cars filled with leaves; a swimming pool with cracked tiles, its deep end filled with trash and an old shopping cart; school hallways cluttered with books; school desks laid out with science experiments; posters of Lenin and other Soviet leaders adorning classroom walls; and a broken baby carriage abandoned in a decaying community center.

Visitors are exhausted by the time their tour bus leaves Pripyat and turns down a one-lane road through a thick forest. Hiding there is the Moscow Eye, also known as the “Russian Woodpecker,” an enormous metal structure silhouetted against the sky like a vertical Stonehenge.

Using over-the-horizon radar, the Moscow Eye was the receiver for a powerful radio broadcast sent from elsewhere in Ukraine. Some said that the signal’s short, repetitive tapping noise sounded like a bird — thus the woodpecker moniker. Others say it sounded more like a machine gun. From 1976, until it went off the air in 1989, the unexplained radio signal interfered with many broadcasts. Listeners speculated that it was a method of Soviet mind control. Only in the past three years have tourists discovered its sublime metal architecture rising from the forest floor near Chernobyl, an anachronistic remnant from a not-so-distant era.

Reed is a writer based in Syracuse. Her website is . Find her on Twitter: @JournoReed.

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Chernobyl tour: One- or two-day tours in Chernobyl, spending the night at a new hotel in the exclusion zone. Prices range from $79 for a one-day tour with a group to $349 for a two-day tour with an overnight stay. Tours typically include the Moscow Eye as part of the tour.

Missile Base at Pervomaysk tour: All-day tours with English-speaking drivers and guides range from $75 a person with a group of five or more to $300 for a single person private tour. The museum charges about $8 for admittance that is not included in the tour price.

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Pripyat - The city was founded on February 4, 1970, so that the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant workers could move there.

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Disaster - The Chernobyl nuclear disaster, near Pripyat, is still the only level seven accident on the International Nuclear Event Scale.

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Radiation - The city was hit with 100 times more radiation than the amount contained in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs .

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Evacuation - The city was only evacuated 24 hours after the accident, resulting in deaths and serious side effects for people.

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Cleaning up - Almost 2,000 people got together for the first phase of cleaning (around 70%) of Pripyat, from May to June 1986.

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Location - Pripyat is located in northern Ukraine, near the border with Belarus, and it was the closest city to the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant.

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Residents - Pripyat still has a few inhabitants, including elderly people, a small number of scientists, and members of the army. They alone have access to the city, in theory.

7 / 25 Fotos

Entrance - Non-authorized entrance to the area is punishable with imprisonment. Tourists and photographers visiting Pripyat need to get special licenses to enter the region.

8 / 25 Fotos

Old times - The city is a reflection of the old Soviet Union, as many of the buildings from back then still remain intact.

9 / 25 Fotos

What's still there? - The city still has schools, hospitals, clothing stores, toy stores, apartment complexes, and many references to the Soviet regime.

10 / 25 Fotos

Abandonment - At the time of the disaster, many people refused to abandon their homes and families, preferring to risk getting seriously ill. There were consequences. Besides death, the effects of radiation can be passed on from generation to generation in the form of birth defects or other abnormalities and diseases.

11 / 25 Fotos

Deaths - It is estimated that 20% of the deaths in Pripyat and around Chernobyl were suicides.

12 / 25 Fotos

Livable - According to scientists, the city will only be livable again in 900 years time, when the radiation levels drop to normal.

13 / 25 Fotos

New residents - The Przewalski's horse species showed up in the area in 1992, 12 years after the disaster. Unfortunately, their numbers are falling as illegal hunting increases.

14 / 25 Fotos

Animal life - Although Pripyat is a ghost town, nature seems to be thriving there.

15 / 25 Fotos

Changes - However, there have been several cases of gigantism, which means that species suffered mutations and ended up growing bigger than usual due to the radiation.

16 / 25 Fotos

Wolves - There have been reported cases of wild wolves attacking humans for no apparent reason, which is an unusual behavior. Some scientists believe it is also one of the effects of radiation exposure.

17 / 25 Fotos

Forest - The forest near Pripyat and the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant started developing reddish tones after the disaster, that's why it was nicknamed the "Red Forest."

18 / 25 Fotos

Trees - In the Red Forest, some trees fell decades ago but haven't yet decomposed. This is caused by the lack of insects, since many were killed by the radiation.

19 / 25 Fotos

Shadows - Some of the people who were brave enough to venture into the city reported seeing black figures and shadows in videos recorded there.

20 / 25 Fotos

Bizarre - The TV show 'Destination Truth' filmed there, and the crew were shocked to find one of their heat cameras detected a human body inside one of the abandoned buildings.

21 / 25 Fotos

Tourism - It is possible to visit a small area of the city on a guided tour. Around 10,000 tourists head there every year. And even though it is extremely inadvisable for people to touch the objects there, some have stolen jewelry and other valuables to sell on the black market.

22 / 25 Fotos

Documentary - A 30-minute documentary called 'Pripyat Another Life' shows the effects of the passage of time there, but also shows a hopeful side to the disaster, showcasing how nature has brought a new life to the ghost city.

23 / 25 Fotos

People may not be going back to Pripyat any time soon, but new species of plants and animals have already found their way there.

See also: Chernobyl: see what remains

24 / 25 Fotos


After Chernobyl: meet the Ukrainian ghost city of Pripyat

The chernobyl disaster took place on april 26, 1986.

After Chernobyl: meet the Ukrainian ghost city of Pripyat

26/04/22 | StarsInsider

TRAVEL Pripyat

T he city of Pripyat was stopped in time after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and today is considered a fascinating yet terrifying portrait of the old Soviet Union . The abandoned city has been overrun by nature, which has been thriving for more than 35 years despite the high radiation levels. Intrigued? Check out these pictures of this eerie Ukrainian city.


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  • Chernobyl today
  • Chernobyl map
  • Chernobyl children
  • Chernobyl exclusion zone
  • Life in Chernobyl after tragedy
  • Chernobyl radiation
  • Chernobyl nuclear power plant
  • Chernobyl diaries movie
  • Chernobyl pictures
  • Chernobyl video
  • Chernobyl explosion: how it was
  • How many people died in the Chernobyl accident?
  • Chernobyl nuclear reactor: description and type
  • Chernobyl sarcophagus: Chernobyl nuclear power plant sarcophagus
  • Liquidators Chernobyl: who are these people
  • What happened in Chernobyl: the causes of the accident
  • Can you visit Chernobyl?
  • Chernobyl Mutations in Humans and Animals

Pripyat ghost city

  • Chernobyl catfish
  • Mysterious Red Forest
  • Chernobyl wildlife
  • Animals in Chernobyl
  • Chernobyl wolves
  • Chernobyl effects on nature
  • Where is Chernobyl
  • Pripyat. Ghost town thanks to one mistake
  • Nuclear Energy Basics
  • Advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power
  • Nuclear Energy Pros and Cons
  • Nuclear energy facts
  • Nuclear waste problems
  • How Nuclear Stress Test Can Help Save Your Heart
  • Nuclear power plants in US
  • Nuclear power plant: how does it works
  • Nuclear power
  • What Is Nuclear Medicine?
  • The Japanese Nuclear Crisis – Fukushima
  • 10 Powerful Atomic Bomb
  • A Definition of Alpha Decay
  • Alpha particles
  • What is Beta Radiation?
  • What is Gamma Radiation
  • Human Radiation Exposure
  • The Negative Effects on Humans
  • The Effects of Radiation on the Human Body
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  • Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • Hiroshima and Nagasaki now and then
  • Hiroshima History – Two targets for destruction
  • Nuclear Attack on Japan in 1945
  • Nuclear explosion in Hiroshima
  • Day trips from Hiroshima
  • Hiroshima Museum
  • Top-10 Hiroshima hotels and more

Chernobyl disaster logo

 Where Pripyat Chernobyl is Located and Its Environment

Pripyat is a city that is located in the northern part of Ukraine and is bordered by Belarus. The name of the city is derived from the nearby river called Pripyat River and was first founded in February 1970, February 4, 1970 to be exact.

Pripyat Ukraine map. Ghost town near Chernobyl

Ukraine Pripyat map. Town near Chernobyl

It is very popular because it is a nuclear city that is associated with the Chernobyl Power Plant. In 1979, it was declared to be a city with a growing population. In 1979 Pripyat population was approximately 49,000 residents.

This is the resident count around the time of the evacuation due to the Chernobyl disaster in April of 1986. Many of the residents were very young, averaging in the 20s. Around 1000 children were born in this town which had only one hospital. Since then Pripyat Ukraine is abandoned and void of any residents. It has literally become a ghost town.

Pripyat before the Pripyat disaster at the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine

Chernobyl Pripyat before the Pripyat disaster at the Chernobyl plant

Pripyat got its name from the river. It’s called the Pripyat River and it winds through the Belarus as well as Polesiye. The waters of the river meet the Dnepr River. It came into existence thanks to the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl which got its name from Lenin.

The History of Pripyat Chernobyl: Ghost Town History

The city of Pripyat is located in and part of the Ivankiv Raion district and still holds importance and significance in the province of Kiev Oblast. It is manned by the Ministry of Emergencies and this is an agency that handles all of the activities for the exclusion zone in Chernobyl.

Chernobyl Pripyat Ukraine before the disaster

Ukraine Pripyat before and after the Chernobyl disaster

Today, it is a museum that houses evidence of the classic Soviet period. It is now home to unused and abandoned buildings including businesses, housing, hospitals and other structures. To this day, you can still see the belongings of the people who once occupied Pripyat, including the toys that children played with and other papers that signify the history of the city. It is no longer safe for inhabitance and has not been for many centuries. Because of the time it will take to eliminate all of the radioactive materials, it may not be an ideal place of residence for at least nine centuries into the future.

Even though Pripyat today is not safe to live in, you can still use the roads to pass through it without having any negative health effects.

Pripyat technique

The site no longer brings in tourism income because of the silence that has overtaken the Pripyat ghost city and this silence makes visitors uncomfortable.

In Pripyat Ukraine Chernobyl, the city was devastated by one of the worst nuclear mishaps that occurred on April 26, 1986. This Pripyat disaster occurred because of a safety test that was not necessary. It was discovered that employees at the plant had turned off the cooling system to do a test on the grid systems responsible for keeping the core cool. They wanted to know if they would have enough electricity even if the power were to go out to allow the unit to still work. Due to this and other issues including improper design and operating the equipment incorrectly, the Pripyat disaster took place. It began with a power surge and an explosion of steam that set of a nuclear explosion. More than 500 tons of the roof and other toxic material were dispersed into the environment in the early hours of this day.

Chernobyl explosion

Because of the lack of communication, the residents were killed due to illnesses that occurred from the radioactive materials that made their way into the environment. People died even long after the accident took place.

Thousands of people volunteered to help put out the flames of the burning reactor but it took several months to put it out. Even now, it is not known how many people were there to help and how many people have died due this unfortunate incident only because studies have not been done. The government even asked people to participate in festivities even though the radiation level was thousands of times higher than normal.

Chernobyl liquidators

It has been nearly twenty years since the mishap and even though it is safer than it was before, it’s not safe enough to eat the crops that can be grown in the area. You may be physically affected by radiation by doing so. It is best to avoid this. The worst areas are closely controlled and monitored.

Pripyat Ghost City near Chernobyl. Pripyat Disaster

Pripyat evacuation


What You’ll See in Pripyat Ukraine. Pripyat Tour

Pripyat amusement park, ferris wheel Pripyat

Ferris wheel Pripyat Chernobyl in Amusement park

The Pripyat Amusement Park opened shortly after the Chernobyl Plant disaster but unfortunately, it was hardly visited because of the evacuations that turned out to be permanent. The Pripyat Ferris wheel still stands in the same place as before and remains unused. Ferris wheel Pripyat still looks like it’s in good condition but remains idle. There are also images where you can see the Pripyat School and the Pripyat Hospital in ruins over the years. The Pripyat park where this is located was once a very beautiful site that heard the sounds of laughter coming from the children. Other activities included swimming in the Pripyat pool but just like all other features, this is also idle and unused.

When the city was originally built, it consisted of several districts or neighborhood that resembled a radial. It had many signs that were illuminated , ceramic decorations on the buildings and also bright panels.

Pripyat Ukraine - ghost city

Even though people do not live in Prypiat, there are people who live in the Exclusion Zone that returned to their homes. This is the older generation who did not want to adjust to change. Today, there are only three hundred fifty people in this zone.

Pripyat ghost town

Pripyat Ukraine – ghost town near Chernobyl

Though Prypiat is abandoned by people, there is still wildlife living in the area. These animals weren’t able to survive well near Chernobyl. After reactor #4 exploded, the animals moved into the area. Pripyat animals such as deer, lynx and wolves could be seen. There was a high level of radiation but they showed no effects from the high-radiation environment. You will also see Pripyat dogs roaming around as well. Today, it seems like a wildlife safari. The animals enjoyed having the land to themselves without any people around.

Pripyat Tours: See it in Person

The city is located approximately one hour away from one of the most popular cities, Kiev.

It’s constantly discussed, even today because it is where the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant is located there. The site is extremely popular amongst tourist who visit Ukraine.

Pripyat Ukraine tours

Chernobyl Pripyat City today

The town is void of life but the good thing is that though the radiation levels are dangerous if you stay too long, they have decreased enough that you can spend a few hours there.

You can now opt for guided tours. Thousands of people from all corners of the world have done just this, just to set their sight on the famous plant.

Pripyat tour. Visiting Pripyat today

Chernobyl Pripyat today. Pripyat tours

If you’re planning to visit Pripyat, there are tours you can get to see the city as well as its surrounding towns. The tours include transportation to and from the area, passes to the zones and additional transportation for the tour. The tours need to be booked in advance with the tour operators since all of the tours are regulated. The reason for it is the contamination that is still in existence. Can you visit Pripyat? The answer is yes, anytime you wish with a tour guide.

The tours of Pripyat and Chernobyl last for one day and leave early in the morning. From here, you can see places like Kiev and then you will visit the area called the Exclusion Zone in Chernobyl. When you visit the area, you’ll actually have the honor of seeing the Chernobyl Power Plant in person, from the outside of course.

Pripyat swimming pool

If you want to visit Chernobyl and Pripyat – place order for Tour or contact with me and we will do it!

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  • Main content

Haunting photos reveal what nuclear-disaster ghost towns look like years after being abandoned

  • The Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 transformed the Ukrainian city of Pripyat into a ghost town.
  • Other towns have also been abandoned after nuclear disasters, and each is a skeleton of its former self,  strewn with deserted cars and dilapidated buildings.
  • Photos reveal what these places look like years after being abandoned.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more.

Insider Today

Hours after the accident at the Chernobyl power plant, the worst nuclear disaster in history , residents of the city of Pripyat were going about their Saturdays as normal. Children picked wildflowers and played outside. Adults gardened, fished, and even got married .

By the following day, however, they were rounded onto buses and told to bring just a few belongings — important paperwork, personal mementos, and a bit of food. The move was only temporary, the city council said, but most residents would never return.

Today, Pripyat is still relatively abandoned, aside from tour groups that walk along designated pathways and gather inside blighted kindergartens, hospitals, and schools.

The city is perhaps the world's most famous nuclear ghost town, but it's not the only one.

Other major nuclear accidents have prompted evacuations that abruptly emptied cities and villages. Here's what some of these abandoned areas look like.

In the wake of the Chernobyl disaster, Pripyat residents were given less than an hour to pack.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Residents left behind Soviet-era posters , ballot boxes, and flags. 

The city's buildings, homes, and amusement park have been deserted ever since.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

"We didn't just lose a town, we lost our whole lives," one evacuee recalled in the book  "Voices from Chernobyl" by Svetlana Alexievich.

Some artifacts have survived the test of time, while others have disintegrated.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Graffiti artists have drawn strange shadowy figures on the walls of buildings.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

One motif seen throughout the area is a series of childlike figures that are said to represent the ghosts of former residents.

Adult tourists can view scattered remnants from Pripyat's former occupants. Visitors are required to wear closed footwear and cover their arms and legs to avoid any skin contact with radioactive material.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Tourists are also instructed not to touch any artifacts, trees, or walls. 

Creepy dolls can be found on windowsills and beds, but they were likely staged by visitors.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

A group of "disaster tourists" arranged some the haunting dolls on the beds in an abandoned kindergarten  for dramatic effect.

Nearby, the ghost town of Kopachi is also open for tours.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Tours of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone — a 1,000-square-mile restricted area surrounding the nuclear power plant — often take visitors to Kopachi, which is on the road from Pripyat to Chernobyl.

Read more: Photos of the abandoned towns around Chernobyl show time standing still

Most of the village's homes were bulldozed and buried after Chernobyl.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

The action was supposed to prevent the spread the contamination, but it wound up having the opposite effect — the efforts pushed radiation deeper into the soil and closer to groundwater. 

Few buildings remain, aside from an abandoned kindergarten.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

There is also a memorial that honors the Soviet soldiers who liberated the village during World War II.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Meanwhile, an abandoned trolley bus sits in the middle of a forested area.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Twenty-five years after Chernobyl, a power plant disaster in Fukushima, Japan, forced the evacuation of multiple towns in 2011.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

On March 11, 2011, the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami resulted in three nuclear meltdowns and multiple hydrogen explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.

The morning after the disaster, Japanese authorities evacuated the entire town of Namie, which is downwind from the power plant.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Residents weren't allowed back for six years.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

In 2017, the government partially lifted the evacuation orders, allowing around 21,000 former residents to reoccupy certain areas. About 1,000 people chose to move back. 

Namie is divided into three zones, two of which have been re-opened.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

The third zone, which makes up around 80% of the district, is still off-limits due to elevated levels of radiation . 

With humans gone, wild boars began roaming the streets.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

The animals started foraging for food in Namie after the disaster, so local hunters began trapping and killing them.

Many former residents are still too scared to return.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Some former residents remain skeptical of claims that the area is safe, while others find it too painful to live among the demolished homes and empty school buildings. 

In addition to Namie, Japanese authorities designated other municipalities as "difficult-to-return" zones.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

One of those zones was Futaba, was home to about 7,000 people at the time of the accident.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Futaba is now an eerie shell of its former self.

Many buildings there are strewn with discarded objects, and abandoned vehicles have been enveloped by overgrown weeds.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

The vast majority of the town is still under an evacuation advisory.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Authorities are working to make the site livable by 2022, but few residents are expected to return.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

"If this was two or three years after the disaster, I might have a choice to return. But my house became run-down and I got old," a 69-year-old evacuee told The Japan Times  in 2017. "Realistically speaking, I don't think I can live there now."

The Japanese town of Ōkuma has already reopened to the public after sitting empty for eight years.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Ōkuma lies to the south of Namie and Futaba. The town was home to about 10,000 residents at the time of the Fukushima disaster.

Earlier this year, Japanese authorities determined that radiation levels in two of Ōkuma's districts were low enough for people to return . 

Many of Ōkuma's sites are still shuttered, though.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Around 50 people began moving into new homes in April, but most former residents have chosen to stay away. 

Though Ōkuma has a new corner shop and town hall, its hospital and town center still aren't safe to enter due to radiation.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

An explosion at the Mayak nuclear facility in Russia is considered the world's third-worst nuclear accident, behind Fukushima and Chernobyl.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

The explosion released around 2 million curies of radioactive waste.

It took Russian authorities more than 50 years to evacuate the nearby village of Muslyumovo, which was contaminated by the nuclear explosion in 1957.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Details about the incident didn't emerge until after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. 

Read more: 13 of the largest abandoned cities and ghost towns around the world, and the eerie stories behind them

In 2009, residents were relocated about a mile away to an area dubbed "New Muslyumovo."

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Much of the old territory was torn down. Homes were demolished, and the remains were thrown into pits, then buried.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

But a few families belonging to a local ethnic group, the Tatars, chose to remain in the ghost town.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

The ghost town of Atomic City, Idaho, meanwhile, didn't empty out all at once.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

In 1955, a small nuclear meltdown took place just outside Atomic City, at the Experimental Breeder Reactor-1, the world's first electricity-generating nuclear power plant.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Then in 1961, three people died in a steam explosion and meltdown at a nuclear power reactor in nearby Idaho Falls.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Those accidents led to a steady decline in the town's population: It went from around 140 residents in 1960 to just two dozen in 1970. The population has hovered around 25 ever since.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Today, the area is full of abandoned cars and dilapidated homes and trailers.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Photographer David Hanson told Insider that when he visited the site in the mid-80s, there wasn't a person in sight.

Read more: 10 haunting photos of Idaho's Atomic City, 30 years after nuclear disaster drove everyone away

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

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Welcome To Pripyat, Chernobyl’s Ghost Town

The worst nuclear accident in history is frozen in time in this ukrainian city. is this the fate that awaits the japanese towns near the fukushima plant.

Remains of Pripyat city administration building

PRIPYAT - In 25 years, Fukushima could look like Pripyat, the Ukrainian city where all 50,000 residents fled overnight on April 27 1986. Living within two miles of reactor number 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, all the inhabitants were forced to flee on buses, leaving their belongings behind for good, forever contaminated by the leaking radiation leaking.

Inside the gym of this pioneer Soviet town, built in 1970 along with the plant, a tree has grown through the wooden floors. The handball goal posts remain, as does the gym's motto up on the wall: "Strong, courageous and clever." At the bottom of the pool, below the five-meter-high diving board, a pile of broken glass and walls covered in graffiti.

In the local school, once the pride of the city's residents, a piano still stands in one of the classrooms. On the stool, a doll. In the cupboards, scattered books. One of them tells the story of " the summer of pioneers " and starts like this: " the world's number one socialist country has become the world's number one country for a happy childhood. "

As the radioactive dust cloud was floating over the city, students were learning the basis of Russian grammar. In an open notebook, these innocent words. "I am taking a walk, you are resting." Resolutions from the Soviet Union's 22 nd Communist Party Congress are up in the school's hallways. On the floor, a portrait of Lenin. Marx and Engel were luckier; their portraits have stayed up on the walls.

Everywhere, the dosimeter is off the charts, especially near patches of moss that have grown in the city's main square, near the bumper-cars stand. Rust covers the Ferris wheel and the skeletons of other attractions. Radiation levels are far above the authorized norms, between 2 and 5 sieverts. Slowly vegetation has taken over the streets of Pripyat. Buildings are deserted and apartments left wide open. We look up to the oddest of views: a bathtub stuck in between trees, probably the work of thieves.

"The dark side of life"

Despite spending 13 years at the nuclear plant, Yuri Tatarchy, the vice-president of the Chernobyl Information Agency is still fascinated by this ghost town . Unlike in Pripyat, 3,000 people still work in the Chernobyl nuclear plant exclusion zone. They're part of a Franco-Russian consortium trying to renovate the reactor's damaged containment structure. They live in Slavutych, about 55km (34 miles) away. 4,000 others are in charge of surveillance and management of the plant's enlarged perimeter where residents have moved. Tatarchy doesn't really seem to care about radioactivity. "It's like vodka, some can stand it, others can't," he jokes.

Last year, 10,000 people visited Pripyat through Ukrainian tour operators based in Kiev. For 130 euros ($184), these tourists get the thrill of a brush with death. "I recently read in Forbes Magazine that Pripyat was one of the 10 places on earth to see before you die," says Piotr, a Polish student. A 60-year-old Danish woman, mourning the loss of several loved ones came to Pripyat to discover "the dark side of life."

During the bus ride from Kiev to Chernobyl 100km (62 miles) away, three young Ukrainians swallow down iodine pills with a bottle of red wine . According to popular belief in Russia and Ukraine, this cocktail protects against the effects of radioactivity. The tour operator made sure to tell visitors that it could not be held responsible for future health problems.

Read the original article in French

Photo - Timm Seuss


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Inside Israel's Plans To Transfer Palestinians From Gaza To Egypt's Sinai

Dubbed by some as the 'eiland plan,' after a retired israel general, egypt is vehemently opposed to any attempt to transfer palestinian refugees from gaza, which could turn sinai into a launch pad for operations against israel, and ultimately redraw the map of the middle east again..

Palestinians at the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip.

CAIRO — On October 24, a document leaked from Israeli Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel detailed that a durable post-war solution for Gaza has to include the transfer of Palestinians to Sinai, Egypt. According to the document obtained by the Israeli Calcalist news website, the move would include three steps: Establishing tent cities in Sinai, creating a humanitarian corridor, and constructing cities in North Sinai for the new refugees . In addition, “a sterile zone” several kilometers wide would be established in Egypt south of the border with Israel to prevent Palestinians from returning.

The ministry, according to observers, doesn’t have a strong weight in government, with intelligence apparatuses operating outside its framework. “The existence of the document and the formal idea is not a surprise. But that it is leaked and the proof it is out there, is interesting,” says Daniel Levy, president of the London-based Middle East Project and former peace negotiator with Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin.

Shortly before that, on October 18, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi delivered an improvised speech about the ongoing Israeli military assault against the Gaza Strip that followed Hamas’ incursion into Israel nearly two weeks earlier.

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“Transferring [Palestinian] refugees from the Gaza Strip to Sinai would simply amount to relocating their resistance… turning Sinai into a launch pad for operations against Israel and granting Israel the right to defend itself and its national security by conducting strikes on Egyptian land in retaliation.”

Sisi’s vehement rejection of a “second nakba, ” especially after U.S.-led diplomatic efforts to pressure Egypt to create a humanitarian corridor , was turned into a quest to elicit public support for his government. With less than a month to go before a presidential election that was hastily announced amid a crippling economic crisis, Sisi then called for popular demonstrations to support his position. His appeal resulted in a few thousand people turning out for protests on October 20, primarily in Cairo.

Sisi’s position is also consistent with a stance long held by previous Egyptian rulers who have historically rejected any Israeli attempts to displace Palestinians into Sinai. Whether or not Israel’s current military campaign against Gaza succeeds in making the relocation plan a fait accompli is yet to be determined.

Against this backdrop, Egyptian media outlets, owned by security apparatuses close to Sisi, have been publishing and airing detailed reports about an earlier Israeli blueprint to relocate Palestinians from Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula. Most of them claim to have revealed what they call the “Eiland plan,” named after a retired major general, Giora Eiland, who served as the head of the Israeli National Security Council between 2004 and 2006. State-aligned media have made sure to highlight Sisi’s uncompromising opposition to the plan, even if it includes offers for debt relief or financial aid packages from the Joe Biden administration.

“It’s like they are all reading the same script,” said an Egyptian journalist and media observer who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity.

The "Eiland Plan"

By what does the Eiland plan entail? The ex-major general’s proposal to hollow out the Gaza Strip as a strategic solution for Israel goes back nearly 20 years. At the time, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was preparing a plan for Israel to unilaterally disengage from the Gaza Strip. He claimed that his initiative fell within the parameters of the 2003 Roadmap for Peace — overseen by the so-called quartet of the European Union , the United Nations, Russia and, most importantly, the United States — which aimed to bring an end to the Second Intifada .

According to a biography authored by his son, Sharon believed that the disengagement plan would isolate the strip, even at the expense of the Israeli settlements there. Disengaging from Gaza would then free up resources to expand Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a much bigger prize in the eyes of the settler movement and a higher priority for Sharon’s rival within the Likud Party, Benjamin Netanyahu, now serving as prime minister. Although he was involved in managing Sharon’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza, Eiland was known to be a critic of the initiative, which led to his eventual resignation from the council.

Around the same time, Eiland developed an alternative scheme to pacify the Gaza Strip. According to Elliot Abrams, who served as the U.S. deputy national security advisor under the George Bush Jr. administration and who worked closely with his Israeli counterparts in drawing up the disengagement plan, Eiland sought to transfer Palestinians from Gaza to Sinai. As early as 2004, he proposed that Egypt give up territory nearly five times the size of Gaza in order to absorb a significant portion of Palestinians from the strip. In return, Cairo would be compensated with land in the southeast of Israel that would allow for a car tunnel linking Egypt and Jordan.

The Dahiyeh Doctrine

However, former President Hosni Mubarak refused to cede any territory under Egyptian sovereignty. According to Hani al-Masry, the director of the Palestinian Center for Policy Research and Strategic Studies (Masarat), the plan was resisted by all Arab stakeholders. “Arab countries are sensitive to this issue,” he said, “especially Egypt and Jordan.”

This may not have been the first time that Israel presented Mubarak with such an offer. In 2017, Mubarak claimed that he rejected similar offers from Israel in previous years. In 2010, he claimed that the Netanyahu government proposed to resettle Palestinians in Sinai as part of a land swap between Israel and Egypt, which Mubarak refused. His comments came after BBC Arabic reported that Mubarak had agreed to accept Palestinian refugees into his country in 1983 as part of a broader framework for ending the Arab-Israeli conflict — a claim that the deposed president flatly denied.

Israel should encourage Palestinians to leave the Gaza Strip altogether.

Despite having little support for his Sinai proposal, Eiland continued to play an important role in Israeli military and strategic thinking over the following years. According to the well-known Goldstone Report — which was the outcome of a UN fact-finding mission set up to investigate violations of international law during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in 2009 — the military campaign known as Operation Cast Lead reflected a “qualitative shift from relatively focused operations to massive and deliberate destruction.” As it turned out, this new strategy had emerged from a change in military thinking that was outlined by the chief of the Israeli Defense Forces’ northern command during the 2006 Lebanon War and first implemented in the Dahiyeh neighborhood, a Hezbollah stronghold in south Beirut.

The Dahiyeh doctrine, as it came to be known, was premised on the perceived necessity of destroying civilian infrastructure used by enemy guerilla forces in order to paralyze and defeat them. In the years that followed, a group of senior ex-military officials, including Eiland, continued to develop the thinking that underlies this doctrine. In a 2008 paper , Eiland insisted that any future war on Israel’s northern front would lead to “the elimination of the Lebanese military, the destruction of the national infrastructure and intense suffering among the population.”

Egyptian Army Soldiers stand guard at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

Gehad Hamdy/dpa/ZUMA

Renewed relevance of the Eiland Plan

In recent weeks, these ideas appear to have gained a new lease on life. Amidst the ongoing Israeli military assault on Gaza, Eiland has found an opportunity to combine his military strategy, which emphasizes the disproportionate and intentional destruction of civilian infrastructure and populations, and his proposal to forcibly transfer Palestinians to Sinai into a single vision.

In an op-ed published by the Israeli Fathom journal, Eiland wrote that the attack by Hamas on Israel, which resulted in more than 1,400 Israeli deaths and the capture of more than 200 prisoners, is unlike anything Israel has experienced in its 75-year history. To prevent a reprise, he asserted, Hamas must be crushed.

Eiland believes that a much-anticipated Israeli ground offensive into Gaza will be too costly, as the IDF might find it difficult to defeat 20,000 Hamas fighters while simultaneously dealing with other fronts opened up by Iran and Hezbollah. Israel’s safest option, therefore, is what Eiland calls a “dramatic, continuous and strict siege over Gaza.”

According to Eiland, the 16-year siege that preceded this war was not tight enough. He argues that Israel was naive, or even stupid, to believe that it could allow the limited passage of materials into Gaza, as well as Gazans into Israel for work. Instead, Israel should encourage Palestinians to leave the Gaza Strip altogether. “[T]he people of Gaza will have to leave — either temporarily or permanently — via the border with Egypt,” he writes. “When the people have evacuated, and the only ones left in Gaza are Hamas, and when food [and] water [have] run out — and we can also bomb the water facilities in Gaza so there will be no water — then at some point Hamas will either be completely destroyed or surrender or agree to evacuate Gaza just as Arafat was forced to leave Beirut after an Israeli siege.”

In another op-ed published on the Israeli Ynetnews website, Eiland writes that creating a humanitarian crisis in Gaza will compel “tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands to seek refuge in Egypt or the Gulf.” Ideally, he continued, such an evacuation would include the “entire population” of Gaza.

While it is hard to determine how much influence retired generals like Eiland have over Israel’s war cabinet, the tactics used by the IDF in its current assault on Gaza appear to align with much of what he has prescribed. Israel has collectively punished more than two million Palestinians in Gaza by blocking deliveries of food, water, medicine and fuel to residents of the strip. And it has ordered the evacuation of more than one million Palestinians from the northern part of the strip to the south. According to Nimer Sultany, a Palestinian who teaches public law at the London-based School of Oriental and African Studies, there are four towns in the north of Gaza that have almost been erased following the Israeli attack: Gaza City, Jabalia, Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiyya. He said that such actions constitute forced displacement through genocide, explaining that the definition of genocide includes the partial or complete destruction of a group of people based on their national, racial, ethnic, or religious identity.

The genocidal language of Israel's extremist far-right

“There are roots to expelling Palestinians in Zionism,” Sultany says, emphasizing that in periods of tension, the Israeli public increasingly buys into such actions by their far-right government. “A war that is framed in existentialist terms creates a window of opportunity for the expulsion of Palestinians,” he says.

According to Sultany, the Israeli army seeks to target infrastructure across Gaza in order to destroy any armed resistance — an approach that is consistent with the Dahiyeh doctrine. But doing so also violates international law, particularly in regards to Israel’s obligation to respond proportionately and to protect civilians — an obligation that is still applicable in the context of an occupation. With Western nations largely showing complete support for Israel, the road is being paved for mass displacement.

Eiland’s recommendations, which combine a deliberately induced humanitarian crisis with a program of expulsion, have also been reproduced by other strategists in Israel.

Some believe Palestinians will eventually leave, especially those with employment opportunities elsewhere.

In a paper published last week by the right-wing Misgav Institute for National Security and Zionist Strategy, Rafael BenLevi argues that an entire generation living in Gaza today was raised on Hamas’ ideology. Even if Hamas is destroyed, he says, there will still be hostility emanating from Gaza towards Israel. Therefore, Israel will not succeed in installing a compliant governing authority in Gaza — as it has done in the West Bank with the State of Palestine. For that reason, the only solution for Israel is to “drive the Gazan population into Sinai and to launch an international initiative to accept displaced people from Gaza in foreign countries.” To achieve this result, the US should pressure Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and other countries to facilitate the transfer of Palestinian refugees from Gaza, BenLevi concludes.

“The genocidal language in [Israel today] means a complete descent into hell,” says Levy. “This is part of the permanent removal of Palestinians from this tiny part of historic Palestine.” He describes what is happening in Gaza as something “quantitatively and qualitatively different, in terms of the blood, the displacement and the Western support .”

And the displacement scenario could extend to other places. “Those who opposed [Israeli] withdrawal from Gaza saw that, by removing over two million Palestinians from the demographic spatial consideration, it makes it easier to imagine [replicating such] a scenario,” says Levy. “Annexation and nakba elsewhere are more realistic goals now.”

Levy suggests that mass arrests, administrative detentions and killings in the West Bank might be accompanied by even more Israeli operations, aimed at causing further Palestinian displacement beyond the Gaza Strip.

A deeply uncertain future for Gazans

Prior to the Hamas incursion and its aftermath, there were already milder efforts underway to induce Palestinian resettlement from the Gaza Strip. “Before this last war, Egypt was setting up 1260 km for investment and industrial projects, where Palestinians from Gaza can come and work,” says Masry. “This is why the port of Arish was being set up, as well as the airport. This is not necessarily a migration project, but as they say, wayn btorzo’ btolzo’ (where you make money, you stay).”

According to Masry, however, the current war will surely derail this plan now, prompting Israel to find another way to fulfill its goal of displacing Palestinians from Gaza . “If in the past, the maximum attempt was to enlarge the strip for Palestinians,” he says, “now, the minimum Israel will go for is to make it smaller by installing buffer zones that people will not be allowed to live in, such as in the north of the strip. This is the alternative to outright displacement.”

Yet, Masry still believes that deliberations over the old plan were put on the table during the first phase of American shuttle diplomacy when U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was sent to the region on October 12. At any rate, if the war persists for a long time, Masry and others believe that Palestinians will eventually leave, especially those with employment opportunities elsewhere.

  • In Gaza, Young Palestinians Want Their Revolution ›
  • Urban Combat? Occupation? Why Israel's Coming Ground War In Gaza Has No Good Options ›
  • Blame Hamas For Gaza's Suffering? Of Course — But Also Its Puppet Masters In Iran ›
  • Israel Is Decimated, Hamas Is Doomed ›
  • Why Hamas Launched A War It Knows It's Bound To Lose ›
  • Why Egypt and other Arab countries are unwilling to take in ... ›
  • Egypt moves to prevent exodus of Palestinians from besieged Gaza ... ›
  • Israeli military revises call on Gazans to flee to Egypt | Reuters ›
  • Rafah crossing: Here's why Egypt is reluctant to open the last ... ›
  • Israel Says It Will Destroy Hamas. But Who Will Govern Gaza? - The ... ›
  • Israeli Invasion Plans Target Gaza City and Hamas Leadership ... ›
  • Israel bombards Gaza, prepares invasion as Biden urges 'path to ... ›


Are We Sliding Into The "War To End All Wars" — For Real This Time?

Le weekend: opera’s “intimacy” director, china recoups artifacts, pumpkin boat race, what makes rugby the defining sport of modern democracy, this happened — october 28: mussolini's march on rome.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

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By: Editors

Updated: April 23, 2021 | Original: April 24, 2018


Chernobyl is a nuclear power plant in Ukraine that was the site of a disastrous nuclear accident on April 26, 1986. A routine test at the power plant went horribly wrong, and two massive explosions blew the 1,000-ton roof off one of the plant’s reactors, releasing 400 times more radiation than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The worst nuclear disaster in history killed two workers in the explosions and, within months, at least 28 more would be dead by acute radiation exposure. Eventually, thousands of people would show signs of health effects—including cancer—from the fallout.

The Chernobyl disaster not only stoked fears over the dangers of nuclear power, it also exposed the Soviet government’s lack of openness to the Soviet people and the international community. The meltdown and its aftermath drained the Soviet Union of billions in clean-up costs, led to the loss of a primary energy source and dealt a serious blow to national pride.

Then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev would later say that he thought the Chernobyl meltdown, “even more than my launch of  perestroika , was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later.”

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Where Is Chernobyl?

Chernobyl is located in northern Ukraine, about 80 miles north of Kiev. A small town, Pripyat, was constructed a few miles from the site of the nuclear plant to accommodate workers and their families.

Construction of the Chernobyl power plant began in 1977, when the country was still part of the Soviet Union. By 1983, four reactors had been completed, and the addition of two more reactors was planned in subsequent years.

What Happened at Chernobyl?

A routine exercise to test whether an emergency water cooling system would work during a power loss started at 1:23 a.m. on April 26.

Within seconds, an uncontrolled reaction caused pressure to build up in Reactor No. 4 in the form of steam. The steam blasted the roof off the reactor, releasing plumes of radiation and chunks of burning, radioactive debris.

About two to three seconds later, a second explosion hurled out additional fuel. A fire started at the roof of Reactor No. 3, risking a breach at that facility. Automatic safety systems that would normally have kicked into action did not because they had been shut down prior to the test.

READ MORE:  Chernobyl Disaster: The Meltdown by the Minute

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Firefighters arrived at the scene within minutes and began to fight the blaze without gear to protect them from radiation. Many of them would soon number among the 28 killed by acute radiation exposure.

Eyewitness accounts of the firefighters who had helped battle the fires described the radiation as “tasting like metal,” and feeling pain like pins and needles on their faces, according to the CBC documentary series, Witness . Days later, many of those firefighters would be dead.

It wasn’t until 5 a.m. the following day that Reactor No. 3 was shut down. Some 24 hours later, Reactors No. 1 and 2 were also shut down.

By the afternoon of April 26, the Soviet government had mobilized troops to help fight the blaze. Some were dropped at the rooftop of the reactor to furiously shovel debris off the facility and spray water on the exposed reactor to keep it cool.

The workers were picked up within seconds to minimize their radiation exposure. It would take nearly two weeks to extinguish all the fires using sand, lead and nitrogen.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Pripyat Evacuated

Meanwhile, life went on as usual for almost a day in the neighboring town of Pripyat. Aside from the sight of trucks cleaning the streets with foam, there were initially few signs of the disaster unfolding just miles away.

It wasn’t until the next day, April 27, when the government began evacuations of Pripyat’s 50,000 residents. Residents were told they would be away for just a few days, so they took very little with them. Most would never return to their homes.

Soviet Secrecy

It took days for Soviet leadership to inform the international community that the disaster had occurred. The Soviet government made no official statement about the global-scale accident until Swedish leaders demanded an explanation when operators of a nuclear power plant in Stockholm registered unusually high radiation levels near their plant.

Finally, on April 28, the Kremlin reported that there had been an accident at Chernobyl and that authorities were handling it. The statement was followed by a state broadcast detailing the U.S. nuclear accident at Three Mile Island and other nuclear incidents in western countries.

Three days later, Soviet May Day parades to celebrate workers went ahead as usual in Moscow, Kiev and Belarus’ capital Minsk—even as hazardous amounts of radiation were still streaming from the wrecked power plant.

Most people, even within the Ukraine, were still unaware of the accident, the deaths, and the hasty evacuations of Pripyat.

READ MORE: The Chernobyl Cover-Up: How Officials Botched Evacuating an Irradiated City

Chernobyl Disaster Spewed Radiation

The damaged plant released a large quantity of radioactive substances, including iodine-131, cesium-137, plutonium and strontium-90, into the air for over a period of 10 days.

The radioactive cloud was deposited nearby as dust and debris, but was also carried by wind over the Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Scandinavia and other parts of Europe.

In an attempt to contain the fallout, on May 14, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev ordered the dispatch of hundreds of thousands of people, including firefighters, military reservists and miners, to the site to aid in clean-up. The corps worked steadily, often with inadequate protective gear, through 1989 to clear debris and contain the disaster.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Chernobyl Sarcophagus

Over a hurried construction period of 206 days, crews erected a steel and cement sarcophagus to entomb the damaged reactor and contain any further release of radiation.

As former liquidator, Yaroslav Melnik, told the BBC in January 2017, “We worked in three shifts, but only for five to seven minutes at a time because of the danger. After finishing, we’d throw our clothes in the garbage.”

Starting in 2010, an international consortium organized the building of a bigger, more secure sarcophagus for the site. The 35,000-ton New Safe Confinement was built on tracks and then slid over the damaged reactor and existing sarcophagus in November 2016.

After the installation of the new structure, radiation near the plant dropped to just one-tenth of previous levels, according to official figures. The structure was designed to contain the radioactive debris for 100 years.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Chernobyl Elephant’s Foot

Deep within the basement of Reactor 4 lies the Chernobyl Elephant’s Foot, a huge mass of melted concrete, sand and highly radioactive nuclear fuel.

The mass was named for its wrinkled appearance, which reminded some observers of the wrinkled skin of an elephant’s leg and foot.

In the 1980s, the Elephant’s Foot gave off an estimated 10,000 roentgens of radiation each hour, enough to kill a person three feet away in less than two minutes. By 2001, that rate had dropped to roughly 800 roentgens per hour.

How Many People Died in Chernobyl?

Ukraine’s government declared in 1995 that 125,000 people had died from the effects of Chernobyl radiation. A 2005 report from the United Nations Chernobyl Forum estimated that while fewer than 50 people were killed in the months following the accident, up to 9,000 people could eventually die from excess cancer deaths linked to radiation exposure from Chernobyl.

As of 2005, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists , some 6,000 thyroid cancers and 15 thyroid cancer deaths had been attributed to Chernobyl.

Health effects from the Chernobyl disaster remain unclear, apart from the initial 30 people the Soviet government confirmed killed from the explosions and acute radiation exposure. No official government studies were conducted following the explosion to assess its effects on workers, the liquidators and nearby populations.

A 2011 study by the U.S. National Institutes of Health concluded that exposure to radioactive iodine-131 from Chernobyl fallout was likely responsible for thyroid cancers that were still being reported among people who were children or adolescents at the time of the accident.

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

Apart from the ever-unfolding human toll from the disaster, the Chernobyl accident also left behind a huge area of radiation-tainted land.

A 770-mile-wide Chernobyl Exclusion Zone around the site isn’t considered safe for human habitation and can’t be used for logging or agriculture due to contaminated plants and soil. By 2017, however, entrepreneurs found a new use for the territory.

In December 2017, a Ukrainian-German company, Solar Chernobyl, announced construction of a massive solar power plant in the abandoned territory. The one-megawatt power plant, built just a few hundred feet from the damaged Reactor 4, was fitted with 3,800 photovoltaic panels. The Ukrainian government said that a collection of companies planned to eventually develop up to 99 more megawatts of solar power at the site.

That’s a lot of power, but still not close to the former output of the ruined nuclear power plant. At the time of the accident Chernobyl’s four reactors could generate 1,000 megawatts each .

Chernobyl Animals Thrive

Meanwhile, wildlife, including boars, wolves, beavers and bison, showed signs of flourishing at the Chernobyl site, according to an April 2016 study .

The researchers pointed out that while radiation exposure couldn’t be good for the animals, the benefits of the absence of humans outweighed radiation risk.

Chernobyl Today

Humans, on the other hand, aren’t expected to repopulate the area any time soon. Ukrainian authorities have said it will not be safe for people to live in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone for more than 24,000 years.

Today tourists can visit the site, which appears frozen in time, apart from signs of looting, natural weathering and the encroachment of nature.

“Chernobyl: The True Scale of the Accident,” September 5, 2005, World Health Organization . Chernobyl Accident 1986, updated November 2016, World Nuclear Association “Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident: An Overview,” April 2006, World Health Organization . “Chernobyl’s Legacy 30 Years On,” by Tom Burridge, April 26, 2016, BBC News “Higher Cancer Risk Continues After Chernobyl,” March 17, 2011, National Institutes of Health . “How Many Cancer Deaths Did Chernobyl Really Cause?” by Lisbeth Gronlund, Union of Concerned Scientists . “Animals Rule Chernobyl Three Decades After Nuclear Disaster,” by John Wendle, April 18, 2016, National Geographic . “A Nuclear Disaster That Brought Down an Empire,” April 26, 2016, The Economist . “World’s Largest Moveable Steel Structure Shelters Sarcophagus at Chernobyl,” April 27, 2017, PhysOrg/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory . “Pictures: ‘Liquidators’ Endured Chernobyl 25 Years Ago,” by Marianne Lavelle, April 27, 2011, National Geographic . “Chernobyl: Timeline of a Nuclear Nightmare,” by Kim Hjelmgaard, USA Today . “A Vast New Tomb for the Most Dangerous Disaster Site in the World,” by Christian Borys, January 3, 2017, BBC Future Now . “The Lessons of Chernobyl May Be Different Than We Thought,” by Ryan Faith, April 26, 2016, Vice News . “25 Years After Chernobyl, We Don’t Know How Many Died,” by Roger Highfield, April 21, 2011, New Scientist . “Chernobyl’s Transformation Into a Massive Solar Plant Is Almost Complete,” by David Nield, January 13, 2018, Science Alert . “The Famous Photo of Chernobyl’s Most Dangerous Radioactive Material Was a Selfie.” January 24, 2016, Atlas Obscura .

chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

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Ukraine war latest: Russia lost 'at least a brigade' in latest offensive, Zelenskyy says; families of Ukrainian soldiers call for demobilisation

Russia is executing soldiers who are failing to follow orders in Ukraine, the White House has said. Entire units are also being threatened with death if they retreat from Ukrainian military fire, according to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

Friday 27 October 2023 18:20, UK

  • Russia has lost 'at least a brigade' in Avdiivka, Zelenskyy says
  • Moscow executing soldiers who fail to follow orders, US says
  • Pro-Kremlin Ukrainian politician 'shot and in intensive care'
  • Families of Ukrainian servicemen demand loved ones return home
  • Israel-Hamas war will not alter UK's 'unwavering commitment to Ukraine'
  • How has territorial picture changed during the war - and the counteroffensive?
  • Live reporting by Charlotte Chelsom-Pill

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has pledged that the European Union's support for Ukraine "will not let up".

He made the remarks when asked about the impact of the Israel-Hamas war on the conflict in Ukraine at the end of a two-day EU summit in Brussels. 

Mr Scholz said he had "assured" Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy "that our support for Ukraine will not let up".

"It will not be impaired by the fact that we now have this bitter new problem that arose from the terrible, brutal attack by Hamas on Israel and many citizens there," Mr Scholz said.

The EU has broadly backed a plan to offer Ukraine a further 50bn euros (£43.5bn) in aid (see 12.35pm post).

Leaders have said it will take until December to finalise the details. 

Both Hungary and Slovakia have expressed reservations, but not rejected the plan outright. 

EU support for Ukraine has totalled almost 83bn euros (£72.4bn) since Russia invaded in February 2022, the Brussels-based executive European Commission said this week. 

Claims circulating on a Telegram account suggesting the Russian president had died have been dismissed by the Kremlin.

Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state media RIA Novosti that the report was "absurd information".

The Telegram channel General SVR claimed Mr Putin had died at his Valdai residence, north of Moscow. 

It is the second time this week Mr Peskov has had to deny claims made on General SVR about Mr Putin's health after a story that he suffered a heart attack on Sunday was shared widely on social media.

Misinformation researchers say the account, which has issued numerous claims about Mr Putin's health, isn't credible.

Vladimir Putin has called for measures to stop the illegal circulation of weapons and ammunition in Russia. 

He told a meeting of Russia's Security Council some were arriving in Russia from Ukraine.

"We need to think about how weapons and ammunition enter the territory of the Russian Federation illegally... including from Ukraine," Mr Putin said.

"We need to look at all these channels, look at how departmental control measures are organised, and see what needs to be done additionally to strengthen the regulatory framework."

No further information was immediately available. 

Russia has seen a significant surge in gun-related crime since the start of 2022, although it has also engaged in spreading disinformation about the scale of weapons smuggling from Ukraine.

Colonel-General Viktor Afzalov has been appointed commander of the Russian aerospace forces, Russia's defence ministry has confirmed. 

His appointment was first reported by Russian news agencies last week, citing sources.

He has been acting as air force chief following General Sergei Surovikin's removal from the role in August.

Earlier we reported that a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician has been shot and wounded (see 10.03am post).

More information has since emerged. 

Oleg Tsaryov, who sources said Moscow had lined up to lead a puppet administration in Kyiv after Russia's invasion, was shot twice, his family have said.

"When the ambulance arrived, Oleg was unconscious and had lost a lot of blood," the family added. 

Russia's top investigative body has opened a criminal inquiry into the incident.

A Russian-installed official in southern Ukraine had previously said Mr Tsaryov was being treated in intensive care.

Russian media is reporting the shooting took place in Yalta in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

It is not clear who was behind it and the motive remains unknown.

Russian forces have lost at least a brigade worth of troops in its drive to capture the Ukrainian city of Avdiivka, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.

Brigades vary in size, but can number between 1,500 and 8,000 troops. 

"The invaders made several attempts to surround Avdiivka, but each time our soldiers stopped them and threw them back, causing painful losses," Mr Zelenskyy told Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in a phone call earlier today. (See 12.15pm post for a Downing Street statement on the phone call).

"In these cases, the enemy lost at least a brigade," the president's office quoted him as saying. 

The claim has not been independently verified and there was no immediate comment from Russia. 

Battlefield losses are a state secret in both Ukraine and Russia, but tens of thousands are believed to have lost their lives on both sides since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. 

Russia renewed a push to encircle the frontline city of Avdiivka in mid-October.

In its latest update, the Institute for the Study of War said significant equipment losses suffered by Russia in the city will likely undermine its offensive capabilities over the long term. 

See 11.55am post.

Germany has delivered a third IRIS-T SLM air defence system to Ukraine, the defence ministry has confirmed.

Germany has recently stepped up efforts to get air defence systems to Ukraine to help protect critical infrastructure from Russian attacks over the winter months.

Last year, Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure led to blackouts during the winter. 

Officials from up to 70 nations will meet in Malta this weekend to discuss Ukraine's vision for peace, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's top diplomatic advisor has said.

The two-day talks, which will not involve Russia, will bring together national security advisors and foreign ministry officials. 

Ihor Zhovkva said while some nations were still confirming their plans, attendance was up significantly from the 43 who joined a previous round of talks in Jeddah in August and the 15 who went to Copenhagen for talks in June.

He rejected the idea that allied support for Kyiv could be diminishing. 

"You can clearly see this is a growing number of countries compared to Jeddah and it's very important it will be representatives of countries of all the continents," he said.

This week, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell expressed concerns that claims of double standards in the West's view of the Ukraine and Israel-Hamas wars could result in fewer votes of support for Ukraine at the United Nations.

Mr Zhovkva said he saw no evidence of diplomatic setbacks, pointing to recent phone calls between Mr Zelenskyy and the president of Turkey, the Saudi crown prince, the emir of Qatar and the president of South Africa - with more talks planned.

The weekend's talks will discuss Mr Zelenskyy's ten-point peace plan, which includes calls for the restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity and the withdrawal of Russian troops.

Families of Ukrainian servicemen have staged a protest in central Kyiv demanding that their loved ones be allowed to return home.

The protesters, many of them children, chanted "demobilise the soldiers".

Many carried banners and placards, including one which read: "Bring my father back. Demobilisation".

"Warriors have families too," said another. 

The families are demanding the Ukrainian government approves a law allowing soldiers to choose if they want to opt out of service after 18 months. 

Ukraine has ordered a general mobilisation of the male population aged between 25 and 60. 

The majority joined the military as volunteers when Russia launched its military operation in February 2022 - almost two years ago.

Ukraine has since ramped up drafting men and closed its borders to those of conscription age.

"I live in constant fear for his life," said Valeriia Koliada, 35, whose husband joined the military as a volunteer.

"It's nerve wracking for me, he is tired as well. We are a young family. I also want to have a child and sleep calmly at night," she added.

Further protests were reported in other Ukrainian cities, including Lviv.

Eight firefighters have been injured during a Russian missile strike on a fire department building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Izyum, Ukraine has said.

The strike hit the building overnight into Friday, according to minister of internal affairs Ihor Klymenko.

Windows in the building were blown out and equipment and vehicles were damaged. 

This is the video released by Ukraine's Emergency Service.

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chernobyls ghost cities ukraine


  1. Chernobyl 30 Years Later: A Tour Inside the Ghost Town

    chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

  2. Pripyat the Ghost town Ukraine Chernobyl wallpaper

    chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

  3. Chernobyl disaster: Inside the exclusion zone and abandoned ghost town

    chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

  4. How Mariupol, Ukraine is feeling after the devastating Chernobyl disaster

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  5. After Chernobyl: meet the Ukrainian ghost city

    chernobyls ghost cities ukraine

  6. Ukraine: Haunting photos of abandoned ghost towns 30 years after

    chernobyls ghost cities ukraine


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  1. Abandoned City of Pripyat

    The town closest to the No. 4 reactor was Pripyat, a city of 49,000 founded in 1970 to house workers from Chernobyl. It had 15 primary schools, a large hospital complex, 25 stores, 10 gyms, along ...

  2. Pripyat

    Pripyat ( / ˈpriːpjət, ˈprɪp -/ PREE-pyət, PRIP-yət; Russian: При́пять ), also known as Prypiat ( Ukrainian: При́пʼять, IPA: [ˈprɪpjɐtʲ] ), is an abandoned city in northern Ukraine, located near the border with Belarus.

  3. Chernobyl

    Chernobyl (/ tʃ ɜːr ˈ n oʊ b əl / chur-NOH-bəl, UK also / tʃ ɜːr ˈ n ɒ b əl / chur-NOB-əl; Russian: Чернобыль, IPA: [tɕɪrˈnobɨlʲ]) or Chornobyl (Ukrainian: Чорнобиль, IPA: [tʃorˈnɔbɪlʲ] ⓘ) is a partially abandoned city in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, situated in the Vyshhorod Raion of northern Kyiv Oblast, Ukraine.Chernobyl is about 90 kilometres ...

  4. Pripyat: The Ukrainian Ghost Town in Chernobyl's Shadow

    The site of this eerie scene was a place called Pripyat, located near the heart of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, a circle with a radius of nearly 19 miles (30 kilometers) around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant that suffered a catastrophic accident April 26, 1986. The area was evacuated because of high radiation levels, and Pripyat, once a ...

  5. Pripyat: Ukraine's Ghost City Killed By Chernobyl

    On April 27, 1986, residents of the Ukrainian city of Pripyat were living large when compared to other Soviet citizens. Pripyat was a company town, built in 1970 to house workers at the Chernobyl ...

  6. Chernobyl's ghost town

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  7. Chernobyl's ghost town

    A hospital waiting room. Photograph: Guy Corbishley/Demotix/Corbis Topics Chornobyl nuclear disaster Ukraine Pripyat, founded for the 49,000-plus Chernobyl nuclear power plant workers and their...

  8. Chernobyl: City of ghosts

    They died so that we might live. * * * Near Chernobyl is the city of Pripyat. Founded in 1970, it was the ninth Soviet nuclear city — built to accommodate the workers at the Chernobyl plant and their families. At the time of the disaster, Pripyat had a population of just under 50,000.

  9. Pripyat

    Pripyat , also known as Prypiat , is an abandoned city in northern Ukraine, located near the border with Belarus. Named after the nearby river, Pripyat, it was founded on 4 February 1970 as the ninth atomgrad to serve the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, which is located in the adjacent ghost city of Chernobyl.

  10. What a Potential Russian Invasion Means in Chernobyl

    97 The abandoned town of Pripyat, Ukraine, near the Ukraine-Belarus border. The town was evacuated on April 27, 1986, the day after the Chernobyl disaster. By Andrew E. Kramer Photographs by...

  11. Chernobyl Disaster: The Full Story Of The Nuclear Plant Meltdown

    The Story Of The Chernobyl Disaster And The Radioactive Ghost Town Of Pripyat It Left Behind By Marco Margaritoff | Edited By John Kuroski Published February 20, 2019 Updated February 7, 2020 The Chernobyl disaster of April 26, 1986 in Pripyat, Ukraine remains the most catastrophic nuclear accident of the 20th century.

  12. In Ukraine, a radioactive nuclear ghost town near Chernobyl is a hot

    Now the city, an hour-and-a-half drive from Kiev, is a nuclear ghost town. Forty-nine thousand people were forced to evacuate the day after Chernobyl's Reactor No. 4 exploded on April 26, 1986.

  13. After Chernobyl: meet the Ukrainian ghost city of Pripyat

    The Chernobyl disaster took place on April 26, 1986. T he city of Pripyat was stopped in time after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and today is considered a fascinating yet terrifying portrait of the old Soviet Union. The abandoned city has been overrun by nature, which has been thriving for more than 35 years despite the high radiation levels.

  14. Pripyat. Ghost town history

    Pripyat is a city that is located in the northern part of Ukraine and is bordered by Belarus. The name of the city is derived from the nearby river called Pripyat River and was first founded in February 1970, February 4, 1970 to be exact. Ukraine Pripyat map. Town near Chernobyl

  15. Nuclear Disasters Like Fukushima and Chernobyl Created Ghost Towns

    Tsunami-damaged buildings in Namie, Fukushima, on March 11, 2019. Kyodo News/Getty Images. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 transformed the Ukrainian city of Pripyat into a ghost town. Other ...

  16. Exploring the Abandoned Ghost Town of Pripyat, Ukraine

    The abandoned ghost town of Pripyat in Ukraine is a haunting reminder of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. Once a thriving city of 50,000 people, it's now a frozen-in-time ghost...

  17. Category:Ghost towns in Ukraine

    Ghost towns in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone‎ (14 P) Pages in category "Ghost towns in Ukraine" ... Karlsdorf, Ukraine; O. Orbita, Cherkasy Oblast; P. Pripyat; T. Tsukrovariv; V. Vypuchky This page was last edited on 30 October 2015, at 14:59 (UTC). Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike ...

  18. Welcome To Pripyat, Chernobyl's Ghost Town

    March 29, 2011. PRIPYAT - In 25 years, Fukushima could look like Pripyat, the Ukrainian city where all 50,000 residents fled overnight on April 27 1986. Living within two miles of reactor number 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, all the inhabitants were forced to flee on buses, leaving their belongings behind for good, forever contaminated by ...

  19. The Ghost City of Chernobyl, Ukraine

    The Ghost City of Chernobyl, UkraineThe city of Pripyat in Chernobyl went to an accident/disaster in 1986 causing the whole city to be a Ghost city. Often co... The Ghost City of...

  20. Explore the uniqueness of Chornobyl

    Thirty-four years ago people were evacuated from the settlements and were destined never to come back. Nature, which had previously been pushed out of the cities and towns in favor of the human inhabitants, woke up and re-established itself as the owner of this place. 2. The biggest movable construction in the world.

  21. Chernobyl: Disaster, Response & Fallout

    Chernobyl is a nuclear power plant in Ukraine that was the site of a disastrous nuclear accident on April 26, 1986. A routine test at the power plant went horribly wrong, and two massive ...

  22. Inside Chernobyl's Abandoned Ghost Town: A Haunting Journey ...

    Exploring the erie ghost town of Chernobyl Pripyat, Ukraine a day in the abandoned town journey into the past: l in time: exploring the haunted abandoned tow...

  23. Ukraine war latest: Russia lost 'at least a brigade' in latest

    Russian forces have lost at least a brigade worth of troops in its drive to capture the Ukrainian city of Avdiivka, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said. Brigades vary in size, but can ...

  24. Atlas Obscura

    The town closest to the No. 4 reactor was Pripyat, a city of 49,000 founded in 1970 to house workers from Chernobyl. It had 15 primary schools, a large hospital complex, 25 stores, 10 gyms, along ...