New lost footage documentary claims 80% of Russian soldiers at Chernobyl died

A new documentary about the infamous 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant explosion has claimed that around 80% of Russian soldiers sent to clean it up died from being there.

Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes, which is available to watch on Sky Documentaries right now, highlights newly-discovered archive footage and witness accounts of the aftermath of the tragedy.

And it shows that the former Soviet leaders sent around 5,000 men on a suicide mission to clean up the site – which the soldiers were unaware of at the time.

Director James Jones said: “The Soviet government played fast and loose with the truth.

“They thought they would be able to film the clean-up and look like a country full of heroic people. “There were government-made documentaries, released in Soviet theatres, one year after the explosion, but it was dangerous for the film-makers to have gone so close to the radiation.

“One of the directors died, as a result of radiation poisoning, one month after his film premiered.”

According to official Soviet Union records, 31 people died from the explosion in Prypyat, but the true figure is though to be anywhere upwards of around 5,000 to around 10,000, if deaths as a result of the clean-up and after effects are included.

At the time, Russia was said to have sent 5,000 soldiers to clean up the site, under the leadership of General Nikolai Taraknov.

Footage in the documentary shows him asking army leaders to choose the strongest, healthiest soldiers who were inventive and sporty”.

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But, James Jones explained: “Nobody knew anything, especially the first ones to go to in.

“What surprised me the most was the scale of the lies.

“The Chernobyl explosion happened one year after Glasnost (a 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev policy about being more transparent), when everything was supposed to be open and honest.

“But when the disaster happened on Gorbachev’s watch, he hid the causes of the explosion and, subsequently, the horrific effects, like the deaths and illnesses.

“The Soviet government couldn’t admit the scale of the catastrophe.

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“They denied radiation was having a serious effect on the health of local residents and people involved in the clean-up despite mountains of evidence.

“They invented radiophobia to explain medical symptoms and implied that the causes weren’t in fact radiation but just a fear of radiation.

“They were effectively gaslighting an entire population by telling them it was all in their head.”

Fast forwarded 35 years, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has been using similar tactics during the invasion of Ukraine, where numbers of Russian casualties are not being released by the Kremlin – including alleged deaths of current Russian soldiers sent back to Chernobyl to dig trenches in nuclear-waste filled sites outside of the plant.

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