30th anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster

Ukraine this year marks the 30th anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster – the world’s worst civilian nuclear accident. Sirens were sounded in the early morning hours on April 26 in Ukraine to mark 30 years since the moment that the first explosion blew the roof off the building housing a reactor at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, sending a cloud of radioactive material high into the air, drifting into Russia and Belarus and across northern Europe. President Petro Poroshenko attended a ceremony on April 26 at the Chornobyl plant, which today is located in the middle of an uninhabitable “exclusion zone.” Mr. Poroshenko said in his speech that “the consequences of the catastrophe” have not been resolved. He added that the disaster has been “a heavy burden on the shoulders of the Ukrainian people” and that the country was “still a long way” from overcoming the tragedy. The Embassy of Ukraine in the United States provided the following information on the Chornobyl disaster.

Major donors to The Ukrainian Museum on the 40th anniversary celebration at Tavern on the Green (from left): Maria Shust (museum director), Daria Kurylko, George Mycak, Anisa Mycak, Prof. Jaroslaw Leshko (past president), Alla Leshko, Olha Hnateyko (past president), Marianna Zajac (UNWLA president), Maria Baczynsky, Tamara Tershakovec, Julian Baczynsky, Oleh Samilenko, Christine Samilenko and Luba Firchuk (representing Lydia Hajduczok).

The Ukrainian Museum in New York celebrates its 40th anniversary

NEW YORK – Approximately 200 people attended the 40th anniversary banquet celebration for The Ukrainian Museum in New York on April 17 at the Tavern on the Green in Central Park. They came to honor an institution that has served not only the Ukrainian community, but the arts community at large, with its high-quality and expansive exhibits and collections. Among the honored guests were: Ambassador of Ukraine to the United Nations Volodymyr Yelchenko and his wife Iryna, Consul General of Ukraine in New York Igor Sybiga and his wife Natalia, Bohdan Kurczak, CEO, and Stefan Kaczaraj, chairman of the board from SelfReliance New York Federal Credit Union, Marianna Zajac, president of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America (and a vice-president of The Ukrainian Museum); and Treasurer Roma Lisovich from the Ukrainian National Association,. Following a cocktail reception, as guests found their seating assignments, the celebratory program was officiated by Xenia Ferencevych, The Ukrainian Museum’s director of communications, who welcomed the guests. The Rev. Volodymyr Muzychka of St.

Red Cross volunteers in Mariupol assist the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee in distributing $100 in financial aid to those injured in the January 2015 terrorist attack in Mariupol that killed 27 and injured 126.

UUARC aids victims of 2015 Mariupol attack

KYIV – Liubov Kozhura was at a Mariupol playground with her 10-year-old grandson Mykola and 6-year-old granddaughter Liubov on what was an otherwise ordinary morning on January 25, 2015, when a missile came crashing down, killing them both. Though unable to compensate for such tragic losses, the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee (UUARC) made its latest contribution to minimize the suffering from the Donbas war by distributing $100 in financial aid to those like Ms. Kozhura at an April 9 gathering. She had surgery performed on her legs and stomach, damaged by shrapnel, at the expense of a Dnipropetrovsk hospital, but the aid from the UUARC helped cover her bills for the medicine involved, which she had to pay for herself. Ninety-eight such injured victims of the terrorist attack received these donations of $100 each, which were distributed with the help of local Red Cross volunteers. Upon learning they came from the Ukrainian American community, the attack victims expressed their gratitude with applause and with tears in their eyes, said Vira Prinko, UUARC’s Kyiv representative, who coordinated the distribution.

Thirty years after Chornobyl disaster, Ukraine doubles down on nuclear power

Nearly 30 years after Chornobyl spewed nuclear dust across Europe and sparked fears of fallout around the globe, a strapped, war-torn Ukraine is opting for “upgrades” rather than shutdowns of its fleet of Soviet-era nuclear power reactors. Kyiv is planning to spend an estimated $1.7 billion to bring the facilities, many of which are nearing the end of their planned life spans, up to current Western standards. Ukrainian officials hope to further their energy independence from Moscow and potentially export some of the resulting electricity to Western Europe as part of an “EU-Ukraine Energy Bridge” that can further cement Kyiv’s ties with Brussels. But can they allay fears, in Ukraine and beyond, that the plans will put Europe at risk of another Chornobyl? The project has the backing of the West, including a $600 million contribution split evenly between the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Euratom, the EU’s nuclear agency.

Newsbriefs

Savchenko’s extradition may take months…

MOSCOW – Jailed Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko has received official forms needed for her to be extradited from Russia to Ukraine, her lawyer says. Attorney Mark Feigin told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency on April 27 that Ms. Savchenko had been given the documents and that a lawyer, Nikolai Polozov, would go to her jail in Novocherkassk on April 29 and help her fill out the forms. Mr. Feigin added that the entire process of extradition could take many months. “I have received Savchenko’s statement [saying she agrees] to be extradited to serve her prison sentence in Ukraine… I believe that the procedure has started,” RIA quoted Mr. Feigin as saying. Ms. Savchenko was sentenced by a Russian court to 22 years in jail on March 22 after she was found guilty of involvement in the killing of two Russian journalists during fighting by Russia-backed separatists against Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine’s new concept paper on security and defense reform

On March 16, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko approved the “Concept for the Development of the Security and Defense Sector” (President.gov.ua, March 16). The document lays out the “Western” vision for Ukraine’s security and defense sector reform and specifies the goals for this process. The concept paper also shows that security sector reform is likely to develop at a slow pace and that it will take substantial time to be implemented. The paper further details the inherent risks to reform from problems arising from economic solvency and sustainability. The concept paper suggests a centrally managed and coordinated system of reforms for the security and defense sector.

NATO chief: ‘Profound differences’ remain between Alliance, Russia

BRUSSELS – The first meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in almost two years was “frank and serious,” and reasserted deep disagreements over the Ukrainian crisis, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said after the talks in Brussels. The April 20 meeting of the council, which serves as a forum for cooperation between the two sides, ran more than 90 minutes over schedule. The two sides also discussed military activities of the alliance and Russia, and the security situation in and around Afghanistan, Mr. Stoltenberg told a news conference. “NATO and Russia have profound and persistent differences,” Mr. Stoltenberg said. “Today’s meeting did not change that.”

“In the meeting, it was reconfirmed that we disagree on the facts, on the narrative, and the responsibilities in and around Ukraine,” he noted.

“Russian aggression has flagrantly violated the sovereignty and territory of an independent European nation, Ukraine, and that unnerves our allies in Eastern Europe, threatening our vision of a Europe that is whole, free and at peace. And it seems to threaten the progress that’s been made since the end of the Cold War. …

“Just as we stand firm in our own defense, we have to uphold our most basic principles of our international order, and that’s a principle that nations like Ukraine have the right to choose their own destiny.  Remember that it was Ukrainians on the Maidan, many of them your age, reaching out for a future with Europe that prompted Russia to send in its military.  After all that Europe endured in the 20th century, we must not allow borders to be redrawn by brute force in the 21st century.  So we should keep helping Ukraine with its reforms to improve its economy and consolidate its democracy and modernize its forces to protect its independence. “And I want good relations with Russia, and have invested a lot in good relations with Russia.  But we need to keep sanctions on Russia in place until Russia fully implements the Minsk agreements that Chancellor [Angela] Merkel and President [François] Hollande and others have worked so hard to maintain, and provide a path for a political resolution of this issue.  And ultimately, it is my fervent hope that Russia recognizes that true greatness comes not from bullying neighbors, but by working with the world, which is the only way to deliver lasting economic growth and progress to the Russian people. …”

– President Barack Obama, in his address to the people of Europe, delivered on April 25 in Hannover, Germany.

From concealment to half-truth about the Chornobyl disaster

It is 30 years since the fourth reactor at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded during the early hours of April 26, 1986.  The media are so full of images and stories about the disaster, the clean-up and aftermath, that it is hard to imagine the terrible silence and dearth of information at the time.  In those final years of the Soviet regime, virtually nothing was reported. No advice was provided to the population on fundamental safety or measures to ensure that children received vital iodine, which could have prevented the high incidence of thyroid cancer.  That this was deliberate policy seems clear, with the Soviet authorities coming down hard on people who tried to inform people. Four days after the accident, Communist officials who had evacuated their own families to Moscow sent children out onto the streets in nearby Kyiv for the May Day parade. Charles Digges from the Bellona Foundation recalls that, over the next 10 days, “the nuclear fuel continued to burn, issuing clouds of poisonous radiation and contaminating as much as three-quarters of the European continent, hitting northern Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, especially hard. Farmers in the area still till radioactive soil.”

More than 600,000 “liquidators” were brought in – some police officers or firefighters, others just conscripts.  They had virtually no protective gear.

UCCA on the 30th anniversary of the Chornobyl catastrophe

Following is the text of a statement released by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America on April 22. Thirty years ago today, the worst nuclear disaster in history occurred at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant, causing irreparable harm and tragic human, natural and economic losses to Ukraine and its people. On the night of Saturday, April 26, 1986, an act of unforgivable negligence at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant in northern Ukraine resulted in disaster. An explosion at the plant blew the concrete roof off of reactor No. 4, sending large amounts of toxic radioactivity billowing into the atmosphere.