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Chernobyl remembered, 25 years on

Ukraine has used the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster to renew calls for help in building a new shelter over the damaged reactor, saying the tragedy was too great for one nation to deal with.

"We have paid for the peace of the planet with the lives and health of thousands of compatriots," President Viktor Yanukovych said.

"But not a single nation, even the most powerful, can overcome the consequences of a catastrophe of such a scale by itself," he said.

Ukraine still needs to raise some £180 million for the project after an international donors conference earlier this month.

Ukrainians, Russians, and Belarusians - the three nations most affected by Chernobyl - began marking the anniversary of the world's worst nuclear disaster in the early hours of Tuesday.

In Kiev, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill led a memorial ceremony outside a monument to workers and firefighters who were sent to the station immediately after one of the reactors exploded and who died shortly after from acute radiation poisoning.

"The world had not known a catastrophe in peaceful times that could be compared to what happened in Chernobyl," said Mr Kirill, who was accompanied by Ukraine's Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and other officials.

The memorial service started at 1am, around the time of the blast on April 26, 1986, that spewed a cloud of radioactive fallout over much of Europe and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes in the most heavily hit areas in Ukraine, Belarus and western Russia.

The explosion released about 400 times more radiation than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Hundreds of thousands were made ill and once-pristine forests and farmland still remain contaminated.

Several hundred Ukrainians, mostly widows of plant workers and those sent in to deal with the disaster, attended the service to pay their respects to their loved ones and colleagues. Teary-eyed, they lit candles, stood in silence and crossed themselves to the sound of Orthodox chants.

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