Chernobyl, 20 years later

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Photojournalist Lionel Delevingne is in Kiev, Ukraine for, covering the commemorations. At the weekend he took a bus trip, laid on by the Ukrainian Ministry of Catastrophes, with a group of journalists and NGO activists, to the site of the disaster. A selection of photos below.

Enlarge image

Entering the 30km “Exclusion Zone” surrounding the disaster site. Entry and exit are strictly controlled by checkpoints like this one. Chernobyl is about 70 miles north of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.

Enlarge image

A sign at the same checkpoint warns of the danger of entering the exclusion zone, which is highly contaminated by radioactive material.

Enlarge image

An aerial photo of the Chernobyl site at the Ukrainian Ministry of Catastrophes.

View image

The bus, carrying journalists and NGO activists supervised by Ukrainian government representatives, heads toward the disaster site in the center of the Exclusion Zone.

Enlarge image

Reactor number 4, where the explosion occurred on April 26, 1986. It has been encased in a concrete “sarcophagus” to contain radioactive material. Unfortunately, the structure was hastily built and is in danger of collapsing.

Enlarge image

Abandoned buildings in the “model town” of Pripyat, designed to house nuclear workers and their families.

Enlarge image

Although hundreds of thousands of people were permanently evacuated from their homes in the region surrounding the plant, some, like these, have insisted on returning, effectively becoming squatters in their former homes. About 38 people are thought to live in the highly contaminated Exclusion Zone.

Enlarge image

Boyar Erdokia and husband of the village of Illincy, in the Exclusion Zone. They insisted on returning to their former home.

Enlarge image

A woman who lives in the Exclusion Zone.

Enlarge image

Feodor Ivanovich, 78, of Illincy Village.

Enlarge image

A Soviet-era helicopter and buses used to evacuate residents at the time of the disaster sit in one of several “graveyards” in the Exclusion Zone. They are highly contaminated.

Enlarge image

A journalist contemplates the disaster site from the bus.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend