The community of Chernobyl veterans feels treated unjustly by the law as out of 3,140 surviving Estonian residents who were sent to clean up in 1986 after the disaster by the Soviet authorities, 1,300 do not receive any extra financial support from the state.
The benefits for Chernobyl veterans consist of 160 euros for medical expenses and 32 euros of travel allocation. People of undetermined citizenship - also known as "grey passport" holders - and those who have obtained citizenship after 1940 are not eligible to receive the benefits.
The problem lies in the Persons Repressed by Occupying Powers Act under which the Chernobyl veterans are also placed, Jüri Reinmann, chairman of the activist group Chernobyl Association told ETV. "The legislation concerning the victims of repressions is tied to the Geneva Convention, saying that a person can be considered a victim if his or her parents resided in Estonia before 1940," he said.
According to Riho Rahuoja, Deputy Secretary General on Social Policy at the Ministry of Social Affairs, the main objective of the Act has been to financially support Estonian citizens who had to endure injustice imposed on them or their families during foreign regimes. The legislation also expands to non-citizens, yet only in the form of certain pension benefits, Rahuoja added.
"I know that Chernobyl veterans made a proposal to the government to amend the law and extend [financial support] to all who were sent to clean up the Chernobyl accident [residing in Estonia], yet the state has so far not found it possible or reasonable," Rahuoja explained.
On April 26, 1968 an explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine released large quantities of radioactive fallout into the atmosphere, which soon spread over the whole of Europe. The International Nuclear Event Scale classified the disaster as the worst nuclear power plant accident in history.