Soviet television broadcast the first film footage of the site of the Chernobyl nuclear accident today, showing one reactor building damaged and the surrounding structures apparently unaffected.
The footage, shot from a helicopter and broadcast nationally on the evening news, climaxed a day of heavy Soviet publicity, directed abroad, about the nuclear incident.
Interviews in western media with Soviet officials Boris Yeltsin and Georgi Arbatov constituted the most extensive official accounts of the accident since it occurred and appeared to be part of a concerted response by the Kremlin to heavy western criticism of its initial tight-lipped treatment.
The two interviews were not broadcast or reported by the Soviet media.
[West European governments issued new warnings about radioactive fallout, as did some in Eastern Europe.]
Yeltsin, Moscow's Communist Party boss, told The Associated Press that up to 25 Soviets injured remain in critical condition and that 49,000 persons had been evacuated from the area -- almost twice the figure estimated four days ago by a western source here.
According to AP's excerpts of the interview in Hamburg, West Germany, Yeltsin said the radiation levels caused by the incident dropped today to 150 roentgen per hour. In a similar interview Friday, Yeltsin had given a reading of 200 roentgen. Specialists abroad list such levels as dangerous.
Yeltsin said the zone blocked off because of radiation has been narrowed from 18 to 12 miles around the reactor site, 60 miles north of Kiev. He said livestock within the 12-mile zone had been slaughtered.
The condition of the seriously injured "is not ranked as being life-threatening," Yeltsin was quoted as saying. But he continued that "you can't exclude the possibility that another 10 to 15 will be added" to the two fatalities officially reported.
[Secretary of State George P. Shultz said on ABC-TV from Tokyo that photographic and other evidence indicated more deaths, although "it may be that at some point in time there were only two people killed."]
Yeltsin said 154 of the injured remain hospitalized. Last Wednesday, the official news agency Tass said 197 had been hospitalized initially and 49 of those were released.
The Moscow party chief was interviewed in Hamburg, where he is attending the West German Communist Party congress. He also gave an interview to Reuter news agency yesterday.
Moscow coupled its stepped-up reporting efforts with an invitation to Hans Blix, the director of the United Nations' Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, to come here for talks about the Chernobyl situation. He is expected Monday, along with two senior nuclear energy and safety specialists. An agency spokesman in Vienna said the team would not go to Chernobyl and that he did not know how long it would stay.
The Kremlin also dispatched specialists to Poland and Romania to investigate reported damage, Soviet sources said. U.S. specialists set up equipment today for air, water and food samples to obtain their own readings on whether health hazards exist in the Soviet capital. Results should be available Monday, diplomatic sources said.
The Soviet evening news' shots of what a commentator identified as the Chernobyl plant depicted a calm situation, including scenes of nearby workers' quarters. No people were visible in the two-minute broadcast. Damage there was not as great as had been reported in the West, the commentator said. A still photo had been released last Wednesday.
Tass charged that "definite circles" are using the incident "for unseemly political ends . . . . Faked reports are spread on a death toll running into thousands, panic among the population, etc."
"Maliciously delighting in other people's troubles is an unseemly occupation," Tass added. The dispatch was also read by a commentator on the evening news.
Georgi Arbatov, head of the U.S.A.-Canada Institute, in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp., said the criticism abroad "just shows that some were . . . looking for a pretext . . . to discredit the Soviet Union."
Asked why Moscow took so long to give out information, Arbatov said, "Our first and major concern was not to think about how to give [information to] the American government or some other government, but how really to deal with this extremely dangerous situation."
Arbatov added: "It was comparable to one explosion, maybe less, maybe more, I don't know, to one explosion in the atmosphere of a nuclear bomb. So how do you live with tens of thousands of nuclear weppons in Europe, and all over the world, with NATO strategy to use them . . . and don't protest it? And now you have had an accident. It is a bad accident, and it was a catastrophe, yes it was. But you have really to be sane about it and look at the major things."
At another point he said: "I will remind you of only one fact. That the United States has given reports to [IAEA] three months after Three Mile Island happened. So you see, what we really got to know is the extent of the hate against the Soviet Union which was noticed in many western governments. It has grown into a hate campaign."
Arbatov rejected charges that foreign countries were affected by Moscow's slowness in reporting the incident. "Other countries didn't suffer," he said.
Playing down the aftereffects, Arbatov said, "There was no chain reaction, no explosion, so the danger was for those in the immediate vicinity, who got really serious doses of radiation. They are in hospital."
Yeltsin said that water and milk in the Chernobyl vicinity had been contaminated, and that "naturally, no farm work is going on there."
"But in other areas of the Ukraine, farm work is still going forward," Yeltsin added. "Cows are being grazed, drinking water is being consumed, as well as milk, vegetables and other produce -- without restrictions and without limits."
Arbatov said that people in Kiev and other places in the Soviet Union were being given "all the information" about the incident.