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Sharapova at UN headquarters in New York (official site)
UNITED NATIONS, February 15, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The world's top-ranked female tennis player, Maria Sharapova of Russia, has donated $100,000 to aid recovery from the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster.
Sharapova made the announcement at a news conference at United Nations headquarters in New York, where she was also made a UN goodwill ambassador.
Sharapova, whose family lived not far from Chornobyl at the time of the accident, said she hoped the money would help rebuild schools, hospitals, and sports facilities near the site of the accident.
The explosion at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine in April 1986 was the world's worst civilian nuclear accident.
Its long-term health effects are still unclear, but the UN has predicted it will cause up to 9,000 extra deaths from cancer in the most affected areas.
A sign in a store window in the abandoned town of Prypyat, Ukraine (RFE/RL)
A CONTINUING CATASTROPHE: Twenty years ago in the early hours of April 26, a chain of events began in Soviet Ukraine that was to unleash a catastrophe of unprecedented scale. At 1:23 a.m., a massive surge of power in Reactor No. 4 at the Chornobyl nuclear power station caused an explosion that lifted the 1,000-ton lid off the reactor's core. Within hours, a column of radioactive material some 1 kilometer high was drifting northwest across Europe that would leave traces across the Northern Hemisphere.
In Belarus and Ukraine, the accident left huge swathes of land deserted and radioactive. An area of 30 kilometers around Chornobyl was evacuated and is still abandoned. Hundreds of thousands of people, many of them volunteers, fought courageously to contain the damage.
Twenty years later, what lessons have been learned from the disaster, and what is being done to address the damage it did to the region? In a series of articles, RFE/RL looks at these and other issues on the 20th anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster.
Read The Stories:
What Lessons Have Been Learned?
Liquidators Recall Disaster, Speak Of Life After
Photographers Aim To Keep Memory Of Disaster Alive
A Nuclear Nightmare Becomes A Political Disaster
Greenpeace, Others Challenge IAEA Report On Disaster Consequences
The Catastrophe's Political Fallout
Nuclear Power Set For Growth
LOCAL COVERAGE: Click here to see RFE/RL's coverage of Chornobyl in Russian, Ukrainian, or Belarusian.
Click on the icon to view the slideshow