Credit/By PHILIP TAUBMAN, Special to the New York Times
Published: April 30, 1986
MOSCOW, April 29— The Soviet Government, never forthcoming about domestic disasters, has kept tight control on information about the accident at a nuclear station in the Ukraine.
More than 36 hours after a still-unclear sequence of events that produced the accident at the Chernobyl plant, spreading radioactive debris as far as Scandinavia, Government information has consisted of two statements totaling less than 250 words.
While reporting that there had been an accident that left a reactor damaged and two people dead, and forced the evacuation of four population centers, the statements have not explained what happened or how extensive the danger of contamination may be.
News coverage has been limited to the two official statements, which did not mention the spread of radioactive material to Scandinavia. Only Izvestia Prints News
Izvestia, the Government daily, was the only paper Tuesday that printed the Government's first, 42-word announcement that there had been an accident. Other papers did not pick up the statement, which was distributed Monday by Tass, the Government press agency.
Today, Tass continued to note that there had been many nuclear accidents in the United States and elsewhere.
Since the Chernobyl accident, foreign reporters stationed here have been barred from going to Kiev, which is normally open to foreign travelers. Foreign residents here are required to give the authorities at least 24 hours' notice of travel plans.
Soviet officials reached by telephone in Moscow and in Kiev declined to provide additional information.
Despite the restricted news coverage, there was a palpable sense of concern among Muscovites. Some said that Soviet publicity about the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island outside Harrisburg, Pa., had left Russians more sensitive to the potential dangers of a nuclear disaster.
Furthermore, ''The China Syndrome,'' an American movie about a catastrophic accident at a nuclear plant, has been shown here.
Western diplomats said the limited news coverage was consistent with the Soviet practice of discounting or refusing to acknowledge disasters.
Two previous Soviet nuclear accidents, for example, though reported in the West, but have not been acknowledged by the Soviet Union. They were a chemical reaction in nuclear waste near Kasli, in the Urals, in 1957, and a steam-pipe leak at the Shevchenko breeder plant of Kazakhstan in 1974. Gorbachev Called for Openness
Although Mikhail S. Gorbachev has called for greater openness in Soviet society, stressing the need to be more candid with the public, news about earthquakes, plane crashes and other disasters has remained minimal.
The press and television gave only limited coverage to a major earthquake last October in Central Asia and never disclosed casualty totals.
The newspaper Sovetskaya Rossiya published a letter in January from a reader asking why the press had given more attention to a Mexican earthquake and to a Colombian volcanic eruption than to a Soviet earthquake.
Even when a disaster is not the issue, the movement of foreign reporters is closely restricted in the Soviet Union. Washington has been reciprocating by controlling the movement of Soviet correspondents in the United States.
If a trip is not acceptable to the Soviet Government, correspondents are often told that there are no hotel rooms available in the selected city.
Although the Soviet Union has direct-dial telephone service, Western news bureaus here must place their domestic and foreign calls through operators. This has restricted efforts to reach people in Kiev by telephone.
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