11:45 Apr. 24, 2016
Officials turn a blind eye to vast tracts of clear-cutting in the ostensibly protected forest
PRIPYAT, Ukraine — The road through the forest, abandoned, is at times barely discernible, covered with the debris of fallen tree limbs, vines, leaves and moss pushing up through cracks in the crumbling asphalt.
The moss is best avoided, says our guide, Artur N. Kalmykov, a young Ukrainian who has made a hobby of coming here to the exclusion zone surrounding the nuclear reactor at Chornobyl, set aside in perpetuity after the catastrophe in 1986. It can be radioactive, having carried buried radiation to the surface as it grew.
Above all, he says, watch out for windblown dust, which could well be laced with deadly plutonium.
What Mr. Kalmykov and fellow unofficial explorers of the Chornobyl zone, members of a peculiar subculture who are in their 20s and call themselves 'the stalkers', have found is more interesting still: vast tracts of clear-cutting in the ostensibly protected forest.