The Chernobyl Trials

V.Bryukhanov, A. Dyatlov and N. Fomin at the trial.
The previous post, entitled When the devil gets old deals with the former director of the ChNPP, Viktor Bryukhanovs contemplations and views on the disaster over 20 years after it happened. Especially this year, 25 years after the Chernobyl accident, the now 75 years old Bryukhanov has been giving several interviews for Ukrainian media, trying to once again tell the story of what according to him really happened on that Chernobyl morning in April 1986.

Bryukhanov has been trying to tell it all before. 10:00 am, on the 13th of August 1986 Bryukhanov stood before Ukraine's director of public prosecution answering questions until 13:00 that afternoon. After that the prosecutor went to lunch and upon his return he announced that Bryukhanov was under arrest. Bryukhanov had asked why and received the answer "It's better for you" after which he was taken into custody by the KGB to wait for the trial.

The trial was supposed to be held on the 24th of March 1987 but was postponed due to  the also arrested chief engineer Nikolai Fomin's suicide attempt. In his cell, Fomin had broken his glasses and cut his wrists but his attempt to take his own life was discovered and his life was saved.

Instead the trial began on the 7th of July that year, inside an improvised courtroom in the Chernobyl House of Culture, where Viktor Bryukhanov along with five other men would be held accountable for their actions at the 4th block during the critical hours. These were Nikolai Fomin; his deputy Anatoly Dyatlov; the shift chief Boris Rogozhkin; senior engineer Yuri Laushkin and overall reactor chief Aleksandr Kovalenko were charged with accusations of various levels of negligence and misconduct. The trial would proceed for three weeks.

During the final day of the trial, Fomin showed obvious signs of great stress, but after a 90 minutes session he, Viktor Bryukhanov and Anatoly Dyatlov would receive their sentences, each receiving (as been mentioned here before) 10 years of imprisonment in labour camp for gross violation of safety regulations that created the conditions that led to the explosion of the 4th reactor, or rather "serious errors and shortcomings in the work that lead to the accident with severe consequences". The three accepted professional responsibility of the accident but denied criminal liability. 

Aleksandr Kovalenko, Boris Rogozhkin and Yuri Laushkin pleaded not guilty, but he six were convicted on all charges except Mr. Fomin, who had also been charged with abuse of power. Kovalenko was sentenced to three years in labour camp for safety regulations; Rogozhkin was convicted to five years for the same reasons and Laushkin received two years for negligence and unfaithful execution of duty. 

Being interviewed after the trial, the judge said - based on witness' confessions -  that there was also an atmosphere of "lack of control and lack of responsibility" on the plant - the workers were playing cards and writing letters on the night of the accident.

We already know that Viktor Bryukhanov and Anatoly Dyatlov were released early due to bad health, but neither did Nikolai Fomin serve his full time at the labour camp: In 1988, the former chief engineer was transferred to a neuropsychiatric hospital for prisoners. Two years later he was declared insane and thus released early, being transferred to a civilian psychiatric hospital. 

After recovery, Fomin was employed at the Kalinin nuclear power plant and five years later he retired. Nikolai Fomin does not like to speak about the 25 years old disaster but states that:
"I was largely blamed. Don't believe everything that is said about me. I ony blame myself for one thing: I always thought that the most important of all was the enterprise - the technology but it turned out that I underestimated the most important thing - the value of people."

Note: The photo is taken from sciencephoto.com

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