April 28th, 2017
Translation by Tatzhit Mihailovich
FROM THE TRANSLATOR
The 31st anniversary of Chernobyl nuclear disaster this Wednesday has attracted considerable media attention in the West. Most of the publications focused on the event itself. Some talked about the recent “accomplishments” of the Poroshenko regime – erecting a steel containment structure over the old concrete one , plans to build a solar power plant at the site, and so on .
A few articles, like the Associated Press piece (reprinted by most Western outlets – Washington Post, ABC News, Fox, Daily Mail, etc etc) used to occasion to highlight “anti-nuclear protest in Belarus” .
Finally, one or two articles talked about cool projects in the exclusion zone – such as a few Polish “adventurers” moving a generator into Pripyat and turning lights on (source) – but without discussing e.g. the potential for electrical fires, which would spread radioactive smoke, or the fact that random people can freely roam Pripyat.
No one talked about the real problem – the fact that the “closed zone” around Chernobyl is no longer really “closed”, and that everything of value is being looted and sold to unsuspecting buyers . The interview below discusses this problem.
[pictured: school in the radioactive town of Polesskoe, mentioned in interview below, midway through being disassembled for construction materials. Photo credit to zametkiev LJ.]
Interestingly, the man presenting the evidence (Alexander Medinskiy) is actually a Ukrainian nationalist – or used to be, anyway. He even fought in Donbass, but since coming back from the war, he has seen the effects of “Western democracy” on Ukraine and has become a vocal critic of the new regime, calling it corrupt, dictatorial, and criminal (and was branded a “terrorist sympathizer” in return). So, we can hear a report for an “insider”, as it were.
(A) = Aleksandr Medinskiy
(K) = Konstantin Zazvonov
(A) Kostya, everyone in Ukraine understands that the industry is mostly dead, so all that’s left is scrapping the leftovers. Now they are getting into Chernobyl.
(K) Isn’t it supposed to be closed off?
(A) It used to be “restricted” before. And even then, not guarded well. And now, it’s not just lone looters. It goes all the way to the top, so restrictions no longer apply.
Moreover, most of the policemen that were guarding Chernobyl have been laid off now, so it’s standing wide open.
(K) Got it. What exactly is being looted? [Irradiated] vehicles from storage areas, or building materials and infrastructure?
(A) Anything and everything of value, Kostya.
First of all… Let’s show a photo here… On Google photos we can see that in 2002, this “vehicle cemetery” was completely full and by 2013, it was all taken. So first they looted the vehicles – those are the most valuable. Not every last one, but most.
Now they’ve moved on to houses – taking them apart for pipes, rebar, and so on.
Here we can see how the school in Polesskoe [ghost town about 20 mi downwind from the reactor – ed.] is being disassembled into concrete slabs.
No idea where those slabs will turn up, because it is very tricky to figure out the schemes being used there.
But… I can say that, some time ago, businessmen I know personally have bought a load of used metal pipes, supposedly originating from Dnepropetrovsk.
And when the load was delivered, they were smart enough to check it with a radiation counter – the levels were off the charts, pretty much lethal.
They weren’t able to find out where the pipes originated from, but it certainly wasn’t Dnepropetrovsk. Somewhere within the exclusion zone, apparently.
(K) So is it sold within Ukraine, or exported? Or you don’t have that sort of information?
(A) I’ll put it this way. If you really look into what’s happening into exclusion zone, this is a large-scale, industrial effort. They are disassembling buildings using cranes. This isn’t merely a couple hobos trying to scavenge.
We can see heavy construction vehicles being moved in. We can see buildings being disassembled in a professional manner, with cranes.
We can see heavy vehicles being used to drag radioactive barges onto the shore, where they are cut for scrap. There are videos of that as well.
Where does all of this go is anybody’s guess. Some of it is bought by unwary people within Ukraine. Some of the metal is probably molten down, re-cast, and then exported.
Everybody knows that, [unfortunately], our government is among the world’s most corrupt ones. Thus, it is no problem to make real and proper documents verifying that these goods have “successfully passed” radiological inspection.
The real horror of the situation is that these materials can be anywhere in Ukraine now. Those radioactive pipes I told you about – they were brought to the capital!
And after those businessmen refused – where did they take those pipes? Maybe sold them to somebody else?
(K) I’d bet they didn’t take them back to Chernobyl! Yeah, probably resold.
You know, in one of my future videos, I plan to talk about contraband to Poland – how cigarettes and [medical] drugs are being smuggled across the border via drones.
And about Chernobyl – how is it all transported, do you think? How do they smuggle all those vehicles and building materials? Do they do it at night, do they camouflage it, or what?
(A) Let me explain how things work here. “Illegal” smuggling isn’t the main problem here, not really.
The problem is that the government officials are so corrupt, this wave of contraband is going “semi-legally” – through the checkpoints, with all the proper documentation, with knowledge of those in charge.
We’ll talk about that in more detail later. As for items from the exclusion zone, they can be split into several segments.
The most basic category are the hunters, poachers, the people who hunt for meat here. As you can guess, no one checks the meat with any sort of radiation counters.
And the exclusion zone is kind of interesting. There are some patches that are relatively clean, and there are patches that are extremely radioactive.
For example, aforementioned Polesie, [where the school was being taken apart for slabs] – that area is extremely “hot”.
There are people who gather mushrooms, berries, and so on – [Chernobyl] exclusion zone obviously has all of that. And then this food can go to the markets in Kiev, maybe even exported abroad, zero control for that.
Then there are the midlevel “harvesters”, who cut up pipes, rebar, the aforementioned barges, and so on. They pay off the officials and transport the loot semi-legally.
And there is an even higher level. [Irradiated] vehicles aren’t usually cut for scrap, unless they’re completely unserviceable. And if they can still work…
There was discussion of using the remaining helicopters [from the “radiation graveyard”], some tracked vehicles – to use them in the warzone. Can you imagine that?
(K) I thought it was actually done in the end?
(A) I can not claim that it was done. I know it was discussed, that’s all.
So, we can see that the “graveyards” are now empty. Where did the vehicles go…
Maybe they sold the armor to some warring African state. Or to South-East Asia somewhere – not everyone is smart enough to do their own radiological inspection of our country’s exports.
(K) So you suspect UkrSpetsExport (Ukraine’s arms export monopoly – ed.) could have made some money there?
(A) I don’t want to make any such statements. Because we want to be… [Ukrainian word] how do you say this in Russian… We want to be objective, evidence-based.
What I wanted to tell here is that the problem exists, and that its rapidly getting worse.
Right now they’re taking apart Polesskoe, then they’ll move on to Pripyat – the probably already started, then they’ll start taking apart the reactor building itself…
You see, that place can be looted for decades. There are construction materials, scrap metal, venison, mushrooms, and so on. It can be a serious source of income.
The problem is that the whole government system is corrupt. UkrSpetsExport is part of it, so we can not honestly conclude that it is not involved, either. Any part of the system could be.
(K) Thank you very much for your insights on [what’s currently going in] Chernobyl
(A) Yes, thank you too, for raising awareness about this problem. Its being swept under the rug, not talked about, but it’s actually huge. Radiation is an invisible killer.
There are many survivors of Chernobyl among the Ukrainian people, and they should know about this. Also, this problem needs to be discussed internationally. We will continue investigating this matter over here.
(K) Thank you Alex. Use your radiation counter, be safe. All the best!
 The project was funded by foreign countries, started in 2007 and slated for completion in 2014.
Of course, the Maidan “revolution” set the project back a few years and incurred mysterious additional costs that required further foreign funding. In the end, the new regime was able to claim credit for finishing a project they didn’t start, didn’t pay for, and actually delayed.
 An interesting contrast can be seen here: VOA propagandists claim that the Chernobyl solar plant will generate 2.5 Gw and the project will be complete by May (link), while the somewhat more reasonable BBC propagandists talk about 1 Gw, built by 2019 or so (link).
In reality, most likely, none of these output figures and deadlines will be met – no work has been done so far, and no contracts have been signed.
 There is almost no information on this anti-nuclear protest in Belorussian or Russian-language sources; even the Youtube videos put out by the organizers have a couple thousand views at most.
The number of Western journalists and bloggers discussing this tiny gathering of professional “opposition activists” might very well be greater than the number of actual Belorussians who support the protesters.
 The lack of attention to what’s going on in the exclusion zone is especially puzzling considering how much the Western mass media love scaring their audiences – fear is the most powerful of human emotions, after all, and scare stories bring the most ad profits.
I suppose that in this case, profits had to take a back seat to the political goal of supporting the Poroshenko regime.