: New York Times: Chornobyl's silent exclusion zone (except for the logging)

11:45 Apr. 24, 2016

New York Times: Chornobyl's silent exclusion zone (except for the logging)

An abandoned Soviet Cold War-era radar system known as 'The Woodpecker' stands inside the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone on September 30, 2015 near Chornobyl, Ukraine. (Getty Images)

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.

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