MOSCOW, August 13 (RIA Novosti)
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A group of Ukrainians have written a letter to the country's prime minister seeking permission to return to their hometown of Chernobyl - the scene of the world's deadliest nuclear accident, the Ukrainian daily Sehodnya reported on Monday.
The letter, to Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, was signed by 35 people, but they say there are hundreds more who wish to settle in the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
An explosion at one of the plant's reactors sent a plume of radiation over large parts of Europe in 1986. No one is permitted to live within a 30-kilometer radius surrounding the site, but some 200 people remained there after the disaster nonetheless.
The signatories - all of them former Chernobyl residents - argue that the town and its suburbs are no longer contaminated.
"I have a house in the very center of Chernobyl, this is my property," pensioner Mykola Havrylyuk was quoted as saying. "And my health is my own business."
There has been no response from prime minister Azarov's office.
Authorities in Ukraine have pledged to "revitalize" Chernobyl, and work is underway to build a new massive shell to cover the pant's exploded reactor and the existing concrete sarcophagus.
Chernobyl has been open to tourists since 2011.
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