CIA probed claim Soviet Union used ‘slave labour’ to clear up Chernobyl

Declassfied documents dated to June 5, 1986, were compiled by Douglas J. Maceachin –who later became chief of intelligence analysis at the CIA.

He describes the evidence at “inconclusive” – but after laying out his findings acknowledges it is “plausible”. 

“Three forced labour camps are located within 100 kilometres of Chernobyl,” he writes. 

CIA officials then describes the Soviets previous using forced labour for dangerous tasks such as mining uranium. 

Maceachin then points out the area round the Chernobyl reactor resembles previously spotted forced labour camps.

“At Chernobyl…unskilled labour is needed for such tasks as purifying soil and destroy forests,” he writes.

CIA spooks also describe “ideal” locations spotted for forced labourers around the plant at Chernobyl. 

It reads: “Considering the suitability of unskilled forced labour for many of the cleanup jobs at Chernobyl, and considering past Soviet willingness to use forced labour in hazardous work, the use of raced labour is plausible – but not confirmed.”

The document finishes saying that the CIA will continue to monitor “indications that forced labour is present in Chernobyl”. 

CIA chiefs wrote up the document around a month after the explosion at Chernobyl. 

The file was sent to William J. Casey, the then intelligence director of the CIA. 

Numerous parts of the file are redacted, including swathes on the second page.

These redacted elements seem to deal with examples of Soviets using slave labour in previous radioactive situations.

Russia and the US had limited communication during the Cold War, perhaps fuelling paranoia about what the Soviets were up to at Chernobyl. 

Soviet major general Nikolai Tarakanov this week spoke out over the liquidators in response to the hit show on HBO. 

Tarakanov – who is played by Ralph Ineson in the show – praised the work of his men, and also claimed it was “nonsense” the operation was not transparent. 

“It was the soldiers who were the main heroes of this story,” the now 85-year-old said. 

He condemned Soviet authorities for putting soldiers in the frontline for five months, which gave them all high doses of radiation.

The general also blamed Boris Shcherbina – portrayed the series by Stellan Skarsgard – for failing to evacuate the area for 36 hours.

HBO’s show Chernobyl depicts the real life events in which a series of catastrophic failures in safety management led to the disaster. 

The true death toll is unknown due to the culture of secrecy in the Soviet Union – with the official count stating it was just 31.

Russian state-media has taken issue to the popular five-part series – and has been hellbent on setting the record straight.

HBO’s show portrays the Soviet Union leadership as incompetent, secretive, vindictive and failing to grasp the seriousness of the disaster. 

Vladimir Putin’s state TV has announced it will be making its own drama based on Chernobyl.

The show’s director Aleksey Muradov claims it will show “what really happened back then” – and will implicate the US and the CIA.

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