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12:12 GMT +3 hours22 December 2014
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Russian, Ukrainian presidents visit Chernobyl Cathedral

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych on Tuesday visited St. Ilya Chernobyl Cathedral, the only church within the exclusion zone in the area of the devastated Chernobyl nuclear plant.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych on Tuesday visited St. Ilya Chernobyl Cathedral, the only church within the exclusion zone in the area of the devastated Chernobyl nuclear plant.

Ukraine marks on Tuesday the 25th anniversary of an explosion at the No 4 reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on April 26, 1986, which sent a cloud of radiation over large areas of Europe and affected about 9 million people.

The history of the church dates back to the sixteenth century. It was repeatedly destroyed and restored. In April 1986, following the Chernobyl nuclear explosion, the cathedral was shut down, but in 1994, it was reopened following the demands of the plant's workers.

In 2003, the cathedral was again restored. The icon Chernobyl Savior was painted for the cathedral, commemorating those who passed away in the disaster and clean-up of the nuclear plant.

Over the last 16 years, Ukraine has tried to raise funds to build a new shelter over the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl to make the area environmentally safe. The total amount needed to implement the entire project is approximately $2.2 billion. About half of this has been raised so far.

Yanukovych said the donations would allow Ukraine to build the new sarcophagus by 2015.

Medvedev earlier said Russia would allocate 45 million euros for the shield's construction in the next two years.

CHERNOBYL (Ukraine), April 26 (RIA Novosti)