The court hearing of those accused of the disaster that occurred on April 26, 1986, at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, was scheduled for July 7, 1987, and took place at the Chernobyl Culture House.
It was loud at 1 p.m., as if the bell struck: “I ask everyone to stand up, the court is now in session!” The conviction and the conclusion of the judges were reading out for almost two hours.
The prosecutor’s office accused the defendants of violating safety rules at explosive enterprises and explosive workshops, as well as abuse of power and official position, and negligence.
“The guilt of the convicts has been determined and proved, all of them will receive the punishment they deserve,” the headlines of the newspapers in the USSR were full of such headlines, it was replicated in all government press releases. International journalists, having the opportunity to report directly from the courtroom, swallowed every word of the prosecuting attorney.
The judge monotonously stated that only the defendants’ fault was that 30 employees of the nuclear power plant were killed, it was their fault alone because hundreds of people received radiation doses of various sizes, more than 116 thousand inhabitants of Chernobyl, Pripyat and nearby small villages were evacuated through their fault.
In many ways it was. Throwing almost everything acquired, people got on buses, sometimes even just in home slippers, hoping to return to the near future. Some reacted with some humor to the evacuation, as an unexpected and pleasant opportunity to relax on the May holidays.
On the way, they laughed, bragged about how they ran to the neighboring balconies to watch the fire at the speakers, even when they woke up from the noise and ran out onto the balconies of the children, they did not drive them off because it was spectacular. Pripyat did not sleep that night. People never returned to their homes…
Perhaps, only the designers themselves knew about the technical imperfection of the reactor, individual flaws in the design. Specialists at the Chernobyl nuclear power station began talking about the lack of awareness of the Chernobyl employees immediately after the accident.
Both the accused and witnesses spoke about this in the courtroom. There was no constructive relationship between the design bureau and the developers of the fatal experiment. The goal was the experiment itself — the rest did not count.
Much has been at stake, so the “experiment whatever it takes” was at the forefront. As it is said that the winners are not judged, that was the intent, because the goal always justifies the means. And the goal was the most noble one, but here folklore is silent about the fact that no scientific goal is worth human life.
“…Probably this accident is a miscalculation of the whole science. If there are less than 30 rods in the core, then the reactor goes into a nuclear hazard, sooner or later, but the catastrophe could not be avoided, ” it was said by Anatoly Kryat, head of the Chernobyl nuclear physics laboratory, in his testimony.
Of course, then not all the testimonies of the witnesses were in favor of the defendants, moreover, even their own arguments were evidence of numerous violations, both during the implementation of the experiment itself and after the accident.
This time there were no winners who were not judged. Human life, grief, suffering, ecological disaster of a planetary scale have become paramount.
Representatives of foreign media were informed that the defendants in principle agreed with the verdict.
“They basically admitted their guilty, they all regret and repent of their deeds”, the press center officially announced.
The defendant, Alexander Kovalenko, said that he could not even imagine that his irresponsible colleagues would so negligently deviate from the rules of the test program. He delicately emphasized that he himself was not present at all.
Inspector Laushkin assured that the accident was irreversible. “It is difficult to pass a sentence if you have no idea why it is imposed. Belief in justice is lost, awareness of these kills a person from inside”, it was said by the shift supervisor Rogozhkin, who was promptly expelled from the party.
All of them held in their testimonies a certain detachment from what had happened and insisted on an acquittal.
The verdict… What’s next?
The court verdict was a mirror image of what the prosecutor requested in the indictment.
All convicts were irradiated to one degree or another. Only Dyatlov had a critical condition of exacerbation of radiation sickness. He wrote complaints addressed to Mikhail Gorbachev, firstly, from prison, and then from the colony. His wife carried his letters in the offices of the Central Committee of the party. In his arguments, Dyatlov insisted that the reactor was unsuitable for operation.
Many, including academician Andrei Sakharov, fussed over the condemned and languishing from the pains of Dyatlov, He was released 3 years and 9 months after his arrest. He underwent treatment at a rehabilitation center in Germany. Dyatlov died before reaching the decade since the accident for almost a year, having managed to write his version of events at the Chernobyl NPP in the last years of his life.
Nikolai Fomin was not healthy even before the disaster. He had an accident and broke his spine. Then, in 1985, he first turned to a psychiatrist.
After a couple of years, Fomin, who was sentenced to a colony as a mentally unbalanced, was transferred to a specialized hospital, and a year later they were released, recognized as insane and transferred to a psychiatric hospital. Despite such a disappointing diagnosis, Fomin recovered. Over time, he got a job at Kalinin NPP, where he worked until his retirement.
Viktor Bryukhanov is a disabled person and a liquidator of the Chernobyl accident of the 1-st category. Today, having suffered two strokes, he almost does not live without assistance. Nevertheless, he continues to regularly communicate with the press, although he is almost completely blind.
Until 1991, he served his sentence, worked as a locksmith. He managed to get parole with the help of the administration of the Lugansk colony, where he was given a positive profile. Having been released, he got a job at Ukrinterenergo.
He is interested in the fate of former colleagues. He knows a lot about the fate of Fomin, and that Rogozhkin, having freed himself, returned to work at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
He regrets that Laushkin and Kovalenko died of cancer. “Everyone defended the honor of their uniforms!”, he says among those who come to him for an interview every year. And continues:
“They say that our tragic experiment was not coordinated at the highest level. It is all a lie, since absolutely all the details of the experiment were agreed. His results were awaited”.
And there is no doubt about it. Party functionaries, hoping for a positive outcome, waited for the test results as “manna from heaven”. Someone had already imagined himself in a new chair, moving up the career ladder, others expected prizes, and yet others expected different options for promotion.
The ideology in which people lived during the period of deep Soviet stagnation made it possible to obtain these benefits only at the risk of, or, to one degree or another, going beyond what was permitted. Hand over the works ahead of schedule! Overfulfill the plan, despite the difficulties! Conduct an experiment, not only slightly violating its parameters!
Following these slogans, you could become everything, but sitting like a mouse, you remain nothing. Heeding their own egocentrism, many chose the first option for themselves.
It was a risk, a kind of roulette, which, spinning up, in full swing, incinerated everything alive around itself, leaving some without a win, others deprived of shelter, and the third — it cost her life.