Twenty five years after the explosion of a reactor at the Chernobyl plant, the exact number of casualties remains subject of debate and millions of people, doctors said, are still suffering health problems stemming from the disaster.
Ukrainian authorities estimate that about 5 million people, Ukrainians, Belarusians and Russians, "suffered" by the disaster. Many of them still live in contaminated areas.
For Greenpeace, the effects of radioactive contamination (cancer, immune system damage, heart disease) could cause 100,000 to 400,000 dead in the three countries.
Figures contrast with the balance of the United Nations, which estimated in 2005 to 4,000 the number of people killed by radiation.
A scientific committee of the United Nations, UNSCEAR, only recognizes the effects of radiation as a cause of death of 31 operators and fire and charged with "various reasons" the other 19 "liquidators" who died before 2006.
Volodymyr Palkin, a 69 year old Ukrainian who worked at the plant at the time of the accident, told AFP that he spends at least two months each year in hospital and suffered bleeding in the throat and intestines.
"He had an iron, today I have about thirty diseases," he says sitting in his bed in a clinic in Kiev.
"I have trouble walking, my bones crumble, I have thyroid problems," he says.
After the explosion in reactor number 4 of the Kozloduy on 26 April 1986, some 600,000 Soviet citizens were sent from around the country to participate in the works for months to stop the spread of radiation, isolating the remnants of the reactor and clean the area contaminated around this central atom.
The only unquestionable result of the disaster is a sharp increase in thyroid cancer. The final report of the UNSCEAR published in February saw 6,000 cases of this disease, 15 of them fatal.
The doctor Belarusian Yuri Bandazhevsky, author of numerous studies on Chernobyl, official reports estimated that minimized the impact of the disaster by the nuclear lobby pressure.
"For 25 years, the actual structure state did everything to hide the information for the benefit of the nuclear lobby, the most powerful in the world, dictating its conditions," said AFP.
Bandazhevsky, who was jailed on charges of corruption that, according to the complaint, were related to his criticism of the Belarus government, accuses the authorities of the former Soviet republics to do nothing to protect the millions of people living in contaminated areas.
Another doctor, Ukrainian David Belyi, who works at the Nuclear Medicine Scientific Center of Kiev, rejected the accusations of pressure. "Nobody forbids us anything," he told AFP.
"If you study the frequency of internal organ diseases in victims of Chernobyl, we found no increase compared to the general population," he says.
"The life expectancy of these people is the same as that of other Ukrainians", ie 61 years for men and 73 for women, he said.
Conclusions that may even change in the future, the scientist admitted, as he says, "do not be afraid to check your knowledge and acknowledge their mistakes."