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Foreign Reporters Barred from Chernobyl Trial

From Reuters

The Soviet Union on Wednesday drew a curtain of silence over the Chernobyl nuclear accident trial, with foreign reporters barred from attending the second day of the proceedings and no mention of new developments in the official news media.

As in the wasteland surrounding the stricken Chernobyl reactor, peopled only by decontamination workers, only Soviet citizens were allowed entry into the closed zone where the trial is being held.

Six officials employed at the Ukrainian power plant when its fourth reactor exploded on April 26 last year were arraigned Tuesday in the improvised courtroom in the town of Chernobyl.

Despite the Kremlin’s avowed openness policy and the world protests which followed the Soviet Union’s initial secrecy over the radiation disaster, Moscow has decided not to allow full coverage of the legal follow-up to the world’s worst nuclear accident.

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The accident caused the death of 31 people, injured hundreds forced the evacuation of 135,000 Soviet citizens and spewed radiation across Europe.

Soviet Foreign Ministry officials justified the decision to bar the foreign press by saying the town of Chernobyl, 11 miles southeast of the reactor site, could not accommodate journalists throughout the trial, expected to last three weeks.

The Tass news agency published only a two-paragraph report on Tuesday’s proceedings and had issued nothing more Wednesday.

The major Soviet newspapers reprinted the Tass dispatch without further comment. A brief report on the trial including scenes of the courtroom was aired on television Tuesday night.

Moscow-based Western correspondents taken into the zone under police escort Tuesday reported that the six men on trial, including former plant director Viktor Bryukhanov, had all contested at least part of the charges against them.


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