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Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster: Stray Dogs Receive Treatment From a US-Based Team of Veterinarians

The dogs survived despite what was called “open season,” when soldiers were allowed to hunt the animals after the nuclear disaster

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Chernobyl
Stray dogs near the ghost city of Prypyat near Chernobyl. RFERL

Chernobyl, August 23, 2017: A Boston-based international animal-welfare group says it is sending a veterinary team to Ukraine to treat dogs near the site of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

The Four Paws group said on August 20 that hundreds of descendants of abandoned dogs in the Chernobyl area are wandering in and around the destroyed reactor and many live in areas with radioactive contamination, including in the ghost city of Prypyat.

The veterinarians will join a group of other experts already in the region to provide rabies vaccinations, medical treatment, and neutering services to dogs living within the so-called “exclusion zone.”

“Due to wild animals who also live within the exclusion zone, the stray dogs are often infected with rabies, posing a risk to people who work at the plant,” the group said.

ALSO READ: Man from Taiwan Builds Wheelchairs for the Injured and Disabled Dogs 

The dogs survived despite what was called “open season,” when soldiers were allowed to hunt the animals after the nuclear disaster, the group said.

“Originally, the dogs retreated to the surrounding woods after the exclusion zone was established, but packs of wolves and food scarcity forced them back to the abandoned city and toward the still-active nuclear plant,” said Julie Sanders, Four Paws international director of companion animals.

“There, the workers began to feed the dogs and they have stayed ever since,” she said.

The explosion and fire at the Chernobyl plant on April 26, 1986, was the world’s worst civilian nuclear accident and has left radioactivity levels high in areas around the plant.

Work has been under way since 2010 to build a massive shelter over the damaged reactor and seal in about 200 tons of uranium thought to be still there. (RFE/RL)

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Ukraine Fears Mariupol City would be Next to Fall to Russian-Backed Rebel Forces

Moscow's detention of two dozen Ukrainian sailors seized in a naval clash just offshore in November underlines the continued threat

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The Illich Iron & Steel Works factory in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Nov. 30, 2018. VOA

At the height of the conflict in 2014, the people of Mariupol, Ukraine, feared their city would be the next to fall to Russian-backed rebel forces.

The threat of annexation by Moscow has subsided for now. But the front line lies just six kilometers (3.7 miles) to the east — and the conflict continues to have a big impact on everyday life in the city.

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A Ukrainian serviceman stands on board a coast guard ship in the Sea of Azov port of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Dec. 3, 2018. VOA

Moscow’s detention of two dozen Ukrainian sailors seized in a naval clash just offshore in November underlines the continued threat.

Faced with such challenges, how do the people of Mariupol view Sunday’s presidential election? And who holds the key to ending the conflict? Amid the election campaigns, frustration and exhaustion are palpable.

“I like any of the candidates, but not the one who is in power now. We need more authority for us to have peace, for our economy to grow, for us to be prosperous,” Mariupol resident Tatyana told VOA.

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Supporters attend a campaign rally of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in the western city of Lviv on March 28, 2019, ahead of the presidential election on March 31. VOA

Aleksandr Sidorov, a soldier on leave from the front line, believes the next president can do little about the war with Russia. He’s focused on domestic issues.

“The main issue for me is for all the corrupt people to be imprisoned,” he said.

Young mother Alina Arabadzhi plans to vote for comedian-turned-presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Why Zelensky? Because it is a new face. Because he has no vested interests. He hasn’t been in politics a single day,” she said.

russia, ukraine
FILE – Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a Ukrainian comic actor, is a candidate in the upcoming presidential election. VOA

The war is having a huge effect on the local economy. Mariupol used to be an export hub for the Donbas region, Ukraine’s former industrial powerhouse. Most of that region is now controlled by Russian-backed separatists and has been all but cut off.

Two giant steel plants still dominate Mariupol’s skyline, bringing prosperity but also choking pollution. The products are shipped around the world from the nearby port. However, since its forceful seizure of Crimea in 2014, Russia controls shipping access to the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait — effectively giving it a stranglehold on a key artery of Mariupol’s economy.

The director of the port, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich, said he is losing over $7.5 million a year in business.

“Starting in April 2018, Russia started to search all the ships which enter the Azov Sea to reach Ukrainian ports. Then after loading, they check them again when they return back to the Black Sea. The waiting time, the route time, has increased, and it’s had a great financial impact on our export clients,” Aleksandrovich told VOA.

Amid the upheaval, there has been progress in some areas. The organization, Halabuda, began as a group of volunteers taking supplies to soldiers on the front line. It has now morphed into an advice group for residents and businesses.

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Cranes are seen in the Azov Sea port of Mariupol, Ukraine, Dec. 2, 2018. VOA

“A question that concerns every single citizen of Ukraine is corruption. Compared to the corruption in law enforcement that we had five years ago, now after the reforms, we nearly eradicated corruption at the level of the traffic police,” said Halabuda founder Dmitry Chichera.

ALSO READ: ‘After Three Years of Lies, Smears and Slander, Russia Hoax is Finally Dead’: Trump

Corruption and conflict: generational challenges with no easy answers. The people of Mariupol are desperate for change and for the war to end. They know that whoever becomes president, the threat from the east is unlikely to end anytime soon. (VOA)