The Byelorussian republic concealed the potential radiation danger from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident in neighboring Ukraine and has only now ordered the evacuation of 20 contaminated villages, Soviet television said.

The report Thursday on the nightly news program Vremya said residents of the unidentified settlements, most of them farming communities, were left alone to live and grow crops in soil highly contaminated by radioactive fallout from Chernobyl. The size and population of the endangered villages were not disclosed.The report said the people were never told they were living in radioactive "hot spots" and were unaware of the potential danger.