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Zelenskiy In Chernobyl Exclusion Zone To Mark 35th Anniversary Of Disaster

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy delivers a speech from the exclusion zone.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on the international community to work together to prevent a repeat of the Chernobyl disaster on the 35th anniversary of what is considered the worst nuclear disaster in history.

"Our task is to do everything possible to bolster security and strengthen safety to avoid and never repeat a similar disaster in the future," Zelenskiy said in a televised address on April 26 during a visit to the Chernobyl exclusion zone to mark International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day.

In the capital, Kyiv, dozens of people joined a ceremony and placed flowers at a Chernobyl memorial.

Others gathered in the ghost town of Prypyat overnight and held a vigil with 35 candles in memory of those who lost their lives in the accident.

An explosion and fire caused by a reactor meltdown at the Chernobyl power plant, located 110 kilometers north of Kyiv on April 26, 1986, sent clouds of lethal nuclear material across much of Europe.

Prypyat, home to some 50,000 people, was evacuated along with other communities in a 30-kilometer exclusion zone around the radioactive wreckage.

Dozens of people, particularly firefighters and other first responders, died as a direct result of the disaster, but radiation poisoning is believed to have killed thousands more across Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and other countries in the years that followed.

In 2016, a crumbling "sarcophagus" used to contain radiation from the smoldering reactor was replaced with a $2.3 billion metal dome in a bid to stop future leaks. More than 200 tons of uranium remain buried inside.

The area has attracted tourists, with flora and fauna taking over deserted streets and buildings, and Kyiv wants to make it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

"Our goal today is to transform the exclusion zone...into an area of renaissance," Zelenskiy said in his address.

With reporting by AFP
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