Two top managers of the stricken nuclear plant at Chernobyl have been fired for showing "irresponsibility and mismanagement," the Communist Party newspaper Pravda said today, as blame for "deficiencies" in the initial response to the April 26 accident is parceled out.
Pravda gave an account of a recent meeting of the Kiev Communist Party, at which individuals and organizations -- including the Communist Party itself -- were criticized for failing to take charge of the situation, both during and after the accident.
"Because of a lack of organizational and educational work with people, even now part of the plant's work force is 'on the run,' " the paper said. Those who fled included a deputy director, shift leaders and senior technicians, Pravda said. No total numbers were given.
Plant director A. Bryukhanov and chief engineer N. Fomin were removed from their jobs because "in the difficult circumstances of the accident, they were not able to provide correct and firm leadership and necessary discipline; they showed irresponsibility and mismanagement."
The scope and detail of the criticism aired in Pravda signaled a new phase in the public discusssion of the Chernobyl accident.
Until now, press accounts have focused on the heroism of the firemen who fought the fire at the reactor in the early mornings of April 26 and of the doctors who came to save them. The most severely injured came from their ranks. The latest official figures put the death toll at 26.
There have been only scattered accounts of people who failed to meet the test at Chernobyl, and of people who have lost their positions as a result.
But today's report suggested there had been more panic and disorder at the plant than previously admitted. It also suggested more widespread political repercussions, which some local observers speculate could reach to the top of the Ukrainian party, including party boss Vladimir Shcherbitsky.
Shcherbitsky, who is also a member of the ruling Politburo, has not been mentioned in the national press since early May, when he greeted Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov and Central Committee Secretary Yegor Ligachev on a visit to the area of the accident.
Shcherbitsky is one of the few remaining members of the old guard still in the Politburo. Western diplomats have written his political obituary several times since Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, but he has survived thus far.
Today's account in Pravda kept the criticism of the reaction to the accident confined to the region around the plant. Last month, the head of the government commission investigating the accident said local officials were responsible for not giving Moscow a complete picture of the scope of the accident.
However, in subsequent statements by other Soviet officials, it became clear that Moscow was informed of the accident quickly and that representatives of the state committee for nuclear safety and others were on the scene by the afternoon of April 26.
The recent party meeting in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, 80 miles from Chernobyl, criticized the plant's trade union organization for failing to strengthen discipline and to ensure "safe conditions for people's working and living conditions."
The head of the local Communist Youth Organization, or Komsomol, also came in for criticism, the paper said. The local Communist Party organization is credited with mobilizing party members and arranging organizational work. But it, too, was chided for not doing more, specifically for not finding substitutes for missing managers.