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Vassili Nesterenko 1934 - 2008

dissident Soviet nuclear physicist

Vassili Nesterenko was born in 1934 in the Ukrainian village of Krasny Kut. He specialized as a nuclear physicist in Belarus and in Moscow he worked on the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. In fact, in 1986 he was one of the first people, known as liquidators, to intervene, flying over the plant in a helicopter, amidst radioactive fumes, to drop liquid nitrogen onto the core in an attempt to contain the nuclear reaction. Three of the people on board died from the effects of contamination, while Vassili survived and immediately started the struggle to get the area evacuated, otherwise – he pointed out to a member of the Politburo who said he was engaged on the “Bielorussian culture” front – “there won’t be anyone left to carry this culture forward, or to read your books”. According to the writer Svetlana Alexievitch, Nesterenko did everything he could to try, often in vain, to convince the authorities to distribute dose meters and iodine tablets to the children. From 1990 he directed the independent Belarusian "Belrad" Institute for Radioprotection, founded the year before by Andrei Sacharov, Ales Adamovich and Anatoly Karpov. His repeated denunciations of the deliberate disinformation on the Chernobyl incident cost him his job. He was constantly harassed by the State Security Agency, who threatened to consign him to a psychiatric hospital. The Belorusian government offered him a post in a State-run academy to dissuade him from working on the fallout from the disaster. He suffered numerous attempts on his life and finally died from the effects of irradiation in August 2008.

His odyssey is told in Silvia Pochettino’s book Bugie nucleari [Nuclear lies], published by Gruppo Abele, 2008.

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The committee the Forest of the Righteous wants to make known those that fight and are fighting to defend the persecuted, the innocent victims of crimes against humanity, and to protect human dignity and human rights wherever they are infringed upon, to declare the will to live in peace and civil coexistence, to seek truth and freedom of expression.