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Ukraine to turn Chernobyl’s ‘Exclusion Zone’ into tourist attraction

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New Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has signed a decree, envisioning the “development” of the areas affected by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, radiating a joyous picture of how the site of one of the largest man-made catastrophes will become a tourist attraction.

Ukraine wants to turn the ghostly Chernobyl exclusion zone into a tourist magnet that will become a “symbol of new Ukraine.” The plan was unveiled as the EU surrendered control over a new shelter for the destroyed reactor to Kiev.

“The decree will begin the transformation of the exclusion zone into one of the growth points of new Ukraine. First of all, we will create a ‘green corridor’ for tourists and remove any preconditions for corruption,” Zelensky said, while visiting the town of Chernobyl.

“Chernobyl is a unique place on the planet, where nature revives after a world-wide man-made disaster, where there is a real ‘ghost town.’ We have to show this place to the world: scientists, ecologists, historians, tourists.”

Underground tourism in the Chernobyl zone has been thriving for years, despite the area being off-limits and under supposedly strict guard, as corrupt officials have been enabling the niche entertainment for post-apocalypse enthusiasts. Aside from that, the zone has attracted illegal loggers, as well as scrap-metal scavengers, who exported the not-that-safe “goods” elsewhere.

All these issues will be somehow solved by the development program “very soon,” according to Zelensky, and the Chernobyl zone will no longer be the Ukrainian “symbol of corruption.”

The plan might be somewhat sound, at least in snatching tourism profits from the “corrupt officials” and steering them elsewhere. The recent success of the HBO ‘Chernobyl’ miniseries has reportedly caused a tourism boom in the exclusion zone with a 40 percent rise in trip bookings.

Zelensky’s announcement comes just as the EU has officially handed control to Ukraine over the so-called New Safe Confinement – the new sarcophagus, built atop the Soviet-era Shelter Structure that contains the destroyed reactor number four of the Chernobyl power plant. The new, internationally-funded shelter – that costs €1.5 billion – has been under construction for about a decade and is expected to last for about 100 years. Now, it’s up to Ukraine to run the facility, as well as to dismantle the old Shelter Structure and remove radioactive materials, the EU said.

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