Instagrammers posing in Chernobyl nuclear exclusion zone spark backlash

In the wake of the popular HBO series, some Instagrammers have drawn the ire of the internet after posting pictures of themselves posing at Chernobyl, where the world’s largest nuclear disaster occurred, with many users blasting the images as insensitive and tone deaf.

One Instagram user posted a photo of herself topless wearing a thong with a hazmat suit falling off her half-naked body.  

“Have some respect for the people that lost their lives and homes,” one user commented. 

Another Instagrammer posted a photo of himself flexing his muscles and kicking up his leg while wearing a sock with no shoe. It appeared he had a gallery of the same pose at many tourist destinations around the world.

"The (expletive) people do for attention," one user commented, while another called the photo “pathetic.” A third user said it was “utterly ridiculous and disgusting.” 

The Chernobyl nuclear accident on April 26, 1986 killed two plant workers. Twenty eight other people died within weeks from acute radiation poisoning, according to the World Nuclear Association. Another 106 workers received high enough doses to cause acute radiation sickness, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.

“The accident caused the largest uncontrolled radioactive release into the environment ever recorded for any civilian operation,” the WNA said. 

A tweet from user Burno Zupan went viral, garnering 40,000 likes showing four photos of “influencers” taking selfies at Chernobyl, saying, “Meanwhile in Chernobyl: Instagram influencers flocking to the site of the disaster.” 

One of those influencers featured in the tweet was Austrian Instagrammer Julia Baessler, who deleted some of the images from her Instagram after Zupan’s tweet had people up in arms and accusing her of exploiting the disaster for likes. 

Baessler told Business Insider that her visit to Chernobyl had nothing to do with the HBO miniseries, and that she was not there on a photoshoot.

Since the release HBO miniseries “Chernobyl,” tourists have been flocking to the most radioactive place on Earth to snag a selfie for Instagram — so much so that even the creator of HBO’s Chernobyl, Craig Mazin, weighed in. 

Mazin tweeted out his concern urging future tourists of the radioactive vacation getaway to be respectful. 

“It's wonderful that #ChernobylHBO has inspired a wave of tourism to the Zone of Exclusion,” Mazin tweeted on Tuesday. “But yes, I've seen the photos going around.”
“If you visit, please remember that a terrible tragedy occurred there,” he continued. “Comport yourselves with respect for all who suffered and sacrificed.”

In 2011, Chernobyl was officially declared a tourist attraction, according to the WNA. 

Success of the HBO show has driven up numbers of tourists wanting to see the abandoned town as well as the infamous plant that caused the disaster, according to Reuters. Companies like SOLO EAST offer tours starting at $91. 
Sergiy Ivanchuk, director of SoloEast tours, told the wire service that business is booming with 30 percent more tourists going to the area in May 2019 compared with last year. 

The company’s website even features a still from HBO’s “Chernobyl” that says, “As seen on HBO miniseries.” 

This story was reported from Los Angeles.