BONN, West Germany -- A dozen Soviet soldiers were executed for refusing to expose themselves to radioactivity by fighting fires at the Chernobyl reactor, a West German newspaper reported Sunday.
The newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag said the soldiers were shot because they disobeyed orders assigning them to Chernobyl after the April 26 explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear plant near Kiev in the Soviet Ukraine.
It attributed its report, which could not be confirmed, to unidentified Western intelligence agencies.
The newspaper said the Soviet army newspaper Red Star reported this week that volunteers had gone to Chernobyl to help fight fires at the reactor.
It said Red Star declared the volunteers were necessary because robots operated by remote control had broken down.
Die Welt said intelligence sources told the newspaper that Red Star did not mention that soldiers were ordered to take part in the operation.
'Some of them refused to obey the order,' the newspaper said. 'Twelve were shot for disobeying orders.'
The newspaper also said that the helicopters that took part in fighting the fires are no longer in use, and added, 'The crews have vanished without a trace.'