The former Soviet republics are still struggling to recover from the explosion six years ago Sunday at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant that spewed radiation over Ukraine and Bela-rus.

"The Chernobyl catastrophe has not ended," Ukraine Health Minister Yuri Spizhenko said last week. "Ecologically, things are getting worse, and the morale and psychological state of the population is still serious."Details of a cover-up continue to pour out of what used to be secret archives.

Previously classified documents published last week showed the Kremlin leadership repeatedly lied to the world and the Soviet people about the catastrophic after-effects of Chernobyl.

The April 26, 1986, explosion at the power station 80 miles from the Ukrainian capital of Kiev was the world's worst atomic accident.

Ukraine authorities said last week that cancer and other radiation-related illnesses had killed 6,000 to 8,000 people in the years since the disaster, near estimates of Western scientists. Another 15,000 now suffer from radiation-related diseases, the officials said.

Thirty-two people were officially reported killed in the explosion itself.

Spizhenko told reporters that 1.5 million people, including 350,225 children, have undergone follow-up medical tests as of Jan. 1. "Each year, fewer are given a healthy verdict," he said.

The Izvestia newspaper on Friday published documents showing that the former ruling Communist Party Politburo had accurate information on the dangers of radiation but did not inform the public and manipulated the international media.

The author of the article, a member of a legislative committee investigating officials involved in the Chernobyl cleanup, quoted from minutes of Politburo meetings.

In the weeks following the accident, a special Politburo group met daily to track the spread of radiation sickness, Izvestia said. Minutes showed the meetings were sometimes attended by President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov and other top leaders of the former Soviet Union.

The group ordered officials speaking to the media to "point out as groundless the claims and assessments made by separate officials and the press in a number of Western countries that allege serious ecological and material damage" from the spread of radiation.

As it was attempting to downplay the effects of Chernobyl, the Politburo was receiving daily reports about thousands of radiation victims being hospitalized, Izvestia said.

Meanwhile, the Soviet Ministry of Health manipulated reports of widespread radiation sickness by changing what was considered an acceptable radiation level.

The minutes show that the Politburo group was told May 8: "The Ministry of Health of the USSR has approved new standards of admissible levels of radiation exposure that are 10 times higher than the previous ones."

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"This was how thousands of our compatriots suddenly, in one day, May 8, 1986, recovered without any medicine or treatment whatsoever," Izvestia commented.

The daily Labor said Saturday the full Chernobyl story is still being covered up.

"Why is it that even now the names are not known of those who lied and cheated, hiding the truth about the true scale of the catastrophe and the reasons behind it, and submitting people to deadly danger?" the newspaper asked. "Is it done to save face, to preserve cozy positions, high salaries and special food from special stores?"

In Kiev, a museum opened Saturday to commemorate "all those who won victory in the fierce struggle against atomic elements during the catastrophe in Chernobyl," the ITAR-Tass news agency said.

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