HBO's recent miniseries Chernobyl has become another hit for the premium network, pulling in critical praise and triggering a global conversation about the dramatic 1986 nuclear disaster at a Soviet Union reactor in a region now recognized as Ukraine.
Despite the glowing international reception, there's one place the series has not gone over well: Russia, specifically in the power corridors of the Kremlin.
As The Hollywood Reporter reported Thursday, a Russian company is in postproduction on a series on Chernobyl -- one that implicates the United States as playing a role in the disaster.
The Russian series has reportedly been commissioned by NTV, a network owned by the media division of Russian natural gas company Gazprom and known for pro-Kremlin spin, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The government's cultural ministry also reportedly has kicked in $460,000 for the production, whose plot reportedly would run counter to established history.
On April 26, 1986, the No. 4 nuclear reactor exploded at the Chernobyl plant outside the Ukrainian city of Pripyat, then part of the Soviet Union.
More than 30 people died in the initial aftermath of the accident, which raged for 10 days, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.
Radiation spilled into the atmosphere, forcing 115,000 residents to be relocated by the government in 1986, with an additional 220,000 moved out in the subsequent years.
The Soviet government eventually quarantined an area stretching 18 miles in radius from the explosion, creating a radioactive ghost town that stood out as a stark symbol of dark risks of the nuclear age.
The United Nations determined in 2018 that nearly 20,000 cases of thyroid cancer among individuals under the age of 18 at the time of the accident could be traced to the contamination.
Writing this week in the Moscow Times, columnist Ilya Shepelin noted a number of pro-Kremlin media figures have used their columns or state television programs to chip away at the HBO production's credibility or to gripe about its portrayal of Russian leaders.
"If Anglo-Saxons film something about Russians, it definitely will not correspond to the truth," Anatoly Vasserman, who Shepelin describes as an "ultra pro-Soviet columnist," wrote in response.
The Russian series apparently is part of this push-back. According to the Moscow Times, the production will be anchored in the premise that a CIA operative was at Chernobyl conducting sabotage.
The series follows a group of KGB officials working to track down the infiltrator.
"One theory holds that Americans had infiltrated the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and many historians do not deny that, on the day of the explosion, an agent of the enemy's intelligence services was present at the station," the director, Alexei Muradov, told the Moscow Times.
The idea does not match reality. Experts from the United Nations and the Nuclear Energy Institute have determined the explosion was probably the result of a faulty reactor design and human error -- an assessment that Soviet officials agreed with in their own 1986 report on the explosion, according to the Los Angeles Times.
A Section on 06/08/2019
Print Headline: In Russian series' take on Chernobyl disaster, CIA portrayed as villain