UNSEEN Chernobyl photos have revealed the extent of the horrors inside the nuclear blast zone with babies born with heartbreaking birth defects and first-responders left to die alone in hospital wards.
Harrowing new images show kids dying of leukaemia and rare cancers as loved ones watched on and babies born with whole lower bodies fused together like a fish tail.
Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes by James Jones chronicles the horrors of the nuclear disaster through newly-uncovered archival footage and in-person interviews.
Among the most chilling revelations is the impact the disaster, which unfolded in the bustling Soviet working town of Pripyat on April 26, 1986, had on children and frontline emergency servicemen.
One unearthed image shows a newborn baby in an incubator with green spots across its body.
Another shows a pale, bald child staggering through a hallway ill with what's suspected to be a rare form of cancer brought about by radiation poisoning, and another crying as they're lying in a bed being comforted by family.
During the disaster, local hospitals saw a huge increase in birth abnormalities, with newborns suffering adrenal cancer and thyroid cancer, the birth of so-called ‘sirens’ - babies with the whole lower part of their body fused like a fish tail - and even a two-headed baby.
Despite hospitals packed with adults and children suffering from the horrific effects of the fallout, the Soviet government banned doctors from linking any illness to radiation sickness, even claiming the symptoms were psychological and caused by “radiophobia” - the fear of radiation.
One eminent scientist is seen proclaiming: “The accident at the Chernobyl power plant had no impact on the health of the population.”
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The documentary uncovered reels and reels of old footage, including 5,000 young men roped in as “liquidators”, sent to their death in a futile attempt to clean up the exposed radioactive material from the roof of the plant.
In the days that followed the disaster, these brave men would end up being sent to hospital with fatal wounds.
One image shows what's believed to have been one "liquidator" sipping water in a hospital bed with the help of a nurse in a gigantic Hazmat suit.
The man's head shows burning-red rashes and he is left with no hair - all symptoms of radiation poisoning.
Another shows a second firefighter clutching his head as a doctor checks his breathing.
More eerie images show liquidators dressed in apocalyptic-looking hazmat suits and Soviet troops laying in agony on the floor of an undisclosed location.
SOLDIERS SENT TO THEIR DEATHS
On May 14, some 18 days after the nuclear explosion, then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev claimed only seven people had died in the disaster, adding: “Thanks to effective measures taken, the worst is behind us. The more serious consequences have been averted.”
But the secret clean-up operation was still going on.
Shocking footage on the documentary shows troops drafted in to remove 200 tons of deadly debris from the roof in gas masks with lead sheets tied on to uniforms as rudimentary shields.
“The order had been given - it was suicidal,” says one surviving liquidator, Nikolai Kaplin.
“Nobody knew anything and they were literally going into hell.
“We didn’t have proper protection. The contact time is a few seconds but these molecules and atoms accumulate in the body.
“Sooner or later all our bodies showed signs. We all went through it - vomiting, coughing, extreme exhaustion. On the fifth day I started vomiting and choking.
“We were just cannon fodder.”
The liquidators were hailed as heroes and awarded 800 rubles (equivalent of £14,000) - but 80 per cent would die in the next few years.
It was not until 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union, that the authorities admitted a design fault had caused the disaster, which exposed 8.4million people to radiation.
It is estimated that 200,000 people died as a result of the accident. The official Soviet death toll remains at 31.
Now abandoned, Chernobyl is still inside a nuclear exclusion zone and, today, it's back in the news after Ukraine recaptured the area from invading Russian troops who dug trenches in the highly-radioactive dirt, sowing the seeds to their own deaths.
Dozens of Russian soldiers are said to have been struck down with acute radiation sickness and were taken in seven busses back across the border in nearby Belarus.
Russian troops dug trenches in the highly toxic Red Forest zone, just a few miles west of the plant, but have now retreated as part of a pull-out from around the capital Kyiv.
Drone video shows mounds of disturbed earth and fortifications dug on the outskirts of the Red Forest, the most radioactively contaminated part of the zone around Chernobyl.
As the camera zooms out from the abandoned Russian positions the huge steel dome built to cover the destroyed reactor can be seen in the distance.