"KIEV — Every year, Volodymyr Palkin spends at least two months in a Kiev hospital. He was one of hundreds of thousands of rescue workers sent to fight the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear plant and says his health has been permanently ruined by his work.
Yet 25 years after the world's worst nuclear disaster on April 26, 1986, huge controversy remains over the true extent of the damage caused to health, with estimates ranging from tens of thousands of fatal cancers to far fewer.
An estimated 600,000 rescue workers, known as liquidators, from across Belarus, Russia and Ukraine were sent to Chernobyl in the years after the disaster, working in hazardous conditions to clean up the contaminated wreckage.
Palkin, now 69, was one of the first wave of emergency staff. Sitting on his hospital bed he showed pictures of his former colleagues who were among the 30 people confirmed to have died in the first weeks after the disaster.
He was ordered to work on April 26 and was then hospitalised a few weeks later with haemorrhages in his throat and intestines. He says he was ordered by the authorities to register only half of the radiation exposure he received."
Anya Tsukanova reports for AFP April 18, 2011.