How information war can kill

Full video transcript

How information war can kill:

the Chernobyl case

Russia uses many techniques

in its hybrid war against Ukraine,

but key amongst them

is its information war.

How information is twisted,

retained and spread, is all part of this.

We visited the scene

of one of the Soviet Union's

worst abuses of information:

the cover-up

of a nuclear explosion in Chernobyl.

To see how its techniques

then caused suffering,

which could be

continuing even today.

There has been a nuclear accident

and the Soviets have confirmed it.

One of the reactors at the Chernobyl

plant near Kiev was damaged

and there is speculation in Moscow

that people were injured

and may have died.

On the night of the 26th of April 1986

a test was being carried out

at the Chernobyl nuclear reactors.

A surge of energy led to a massive

explosion in reactor number 4.

The resulting radioactive cloud

soon started moving north.

Eventually, it had

reached an area of Europe

stretching from Ukraine

to the Atlantic Ocean.

And this, over my left shoulder

with the yellow scaffolding,

is reactor number 4.

This is the reactor which exploded

on the night

of April the 26th 1986,

sending a plume of radiation

into the atmosphere.

Today, as you can see,

a Geiger counter,

which would normally reach

about 0.12 on a normal street,

is reading 2.43.

And the readings

in this area have reached up to 7.

How was information

provided to the people most at risk,

those living in the area?

There were 2 evacuations.

The first was of the people

in the nearest big town, Pripyat.

All of them had got information

about the explosion of the plant,

but they didn't know

to believe or not to believe in that.

The next day, after the accident, they

could see a lot of busses on this way.

They were evacuating the inhabitants

of Pripyat. 50,000 people.

They were using

about 1,500 busses for that.

Was is a temporary evacuation?

- Yes, the town...

They were sure that they would come

back soon, because they were told...

They really believed

they would be back here in 3 days.

In 1986, the major operation

of evacuation of people in this area

was in Pripyat,

the new town down the road.

That had only been built in 1970,

so nobody had lived there

for more than 16 years.

But those who suffered more,

were those who lived

in the villages around Pripyat.

They were told also

that they had to leave

and that they would

be back in 3 days.

In fact, they never came back

and the houses over the road there,

were all destroyed

and buried under ground.

And now, all that is left

of this still very radioactive area,

is this kindergarten.

But tell me, what kind of information

did these people receive?

Nothing.

- Nothing?

They were just 4 kilometres away,

and they got no information at all?

And their treatment,

where the radiation level was

1,000 times the normal amount,

was even worse

than that of the people in the town.

This village, it was evacuated

just on the 3rd of May 1986,

just a week after the explosion.

So, you can imagine

how dangerous it was to stay here.

The news story of a nuclear accident

in the Soviet Union

was not broken by the Soviet Union,

but by Swedish scientists.

They discovered that the level of

radiation over Sweden in April 1986

was due to an accident in the east.

Shortly after, the Soviet Union

downplayed the incident,

announcing only this brief statement.

Why should the actions

of the Soviets 30 years ago

have anything to do

with today's Russia?

Firstly, the control of Chernobyl

lay not in Kiev, but in Moscow.

The way that it was dealt with,

came straight from the Politburo.

Secondly, many

of the techniques employed then,

such as issuing denials,

sowing confusion and others,

are being used

again today in Ukraine.

Information played

a key role in this.

By not informing the people at risk,

thousands were exposed

to dangerous levels of radiation.

By lying to residents that they

would only have to leave for 3 days,

lives were ruined. By not informing

other countries of the dangers,

thousands more

were exposed unnecessarily.

One of the characteristics

of this town of Pripyat

right next to the reactor is

that it had a lot of children.

And so this fairground was built

to give them something to play with.

There was just one problem: it was

due to open on the 1st of May 1986.

Three days beforehand, the entire

town of 50,000 people was evacuated

and the children of Pripyat

would never play here.

So, as we see Russia trifling

with information in Ukraine in 2014,

it is worth remembering the victims

of the 1986 information campaign.

And some victims

still suffer from that today.

How information war can kill:

the Chernobyl case

Russia uses many techniques

in its hybrid war against Ukraine,

but key amongst them

is its information war.

How information is twisted,

retained and spread, is all part of this.

We visited the scene

of one of the Soviet Union's

worst abuses of information:

the cover-up

of a nuclear explosion in Chernobyl.

To see how its techniques

then caused suffering,

which could be

continuing even today.

There has been a nuclear accident

and the Soviets have confirmed it.

One of the reactors at the Chernobyl

plant near Kiev was damaged

and there is speculation in Moscow

that people were injured

and may have died.

On the night of the 26th of April 1986

a test was being carried out

at the Chernobyl nuclear reactors.

A surge of energy led to a massive

explosion in reactor number 4.

The resulting radioactive cloud

soon started moving north.

Eventually, it had

reached an area of Europe

stretching from Ukraine

to the Atlantic Ocean.

And this, over my left shoulder

with the yellow scaffolding,

is reactor number 4.

This is the reactor which exploded

on the night

of April the 26th 1986,

sending a plume of radiation

into the atmosphere.

Today, as you can see,

a Geiger counter,

which would normally reach

about 0.12 on a normal street,

is reading 2.43.

And the readings

in this area have reached up to 7.

How was information

provided to the people most at risk,

those living in the area?

There were 2 evacuations.

The first was of the people

in the nearest big town, Pripyat.

All of them had got information

about the explosion of the plant,

but they didn't know

to believe or not to believe in that.

The next day, after the accident, they

could see a lot of busses on this way.

They were evacuating the inhabitants

of Pripyat. 50,000 people.

They were using

about 1,500 busses for that.

Was is a temporary evacuation?

- Yes, the town...

They were sure that they would come

back soon, because they were told...

They really believed

they would be back here in 3 days.

In 1986, the major operation

of evacuation of people in this area

was in Pripyat,

the new town down the road.

That had only been built in 1970,

so nobody had lived there

for more than 16 years.

But those who suffered more,

were those who lived

in the villages around Pripyat.

They were told also

that they had to leave

and that they would

be back in 3 days.

In fact, they never came back

and the houses over the road there,

were all destroyed

and buried under ground.

And now, all that is left

of this still very radioactive area,

is this kindergarten.

But tell me, what kind of information

did these people receive?

Nothing.

- Nothing?

They were just 4 kilometres away,

and they got no information at all?

And their treatment,

where the radiation level was

1,000 times the normal amount,

was even worse

than that of the people in the town.

This village, it was evacuated

just on the 3rd of May 1986,

just a week after the explosion.

So, you can imagine

how dangerous it was to stay here.

The news story of a nuclear accident

in the Soviet Union

was not broken by the Soviet Union,

but by Swedish scientists.

They discovered that the level of

radiation over Sweden in April 1986

was due to an accident in the east.

Shortly after, the Soviet Union

downplayed the incident,

announcing only this brief statement.

Why should the actions

of the Soviets 30 years ago

have anything to do

with today's Russia?

Firstly, the control of Chernobyl

lay not in Kiev, but in Moscow.

The way that it was dealt with,

came straight from the Politburo.

Secondly, many

of the techniques employed then,

such as issuing denials,

sowing confusion and others,

are being used

again today in Ukraine.

Information played

a key role in this.

By not informing the people at risk,

thousands were exposed

to dangerous levels of radiation.

By lying to residents that they

would only have to leave for 3 days,

lives were ruined. By not informing

other countries of the dangers,

thousands more

were exposed unnecessarily.

One of the characteristics

of this town of Pripyat

right next to the reactor is

that it had a lot of children.

And so this fairground was built

to give them something to play with.

There was just one problem: it was

due to open on the 1st of May 1986.

Three days beforehand, the entire

town of 50,000 people was evacuated

and the children of Pripyat

would never play here.

So, as we see Russia trifling

with information in Ukraine in 2014,

it is worth remembering the victims

of the 1986 information campaign.

And some victims

still suffer from that today.

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