Chornobyl — Experience for Two:
The Day, by Ivan Kapsamun,
Published on April 27, 2017
The anniversary of the Chornobyl Power Plant accident became an occasion for a meeting between Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko. They first met at the station’s territory and inspected the construction of a new protective cover over the reactor.
Then the two presidents moved to the territory of Belarus, where they negotiated a number of bilateral issues, such as commercial and economic cooperation as well as the political interaction and further efforts in a peaceful settlement of the Donbas conflict.
“It is extremely important to us that the Ukrainian-Belarusian border was, is, and will always be a border of friendship, good neighborliness, reliable partnership, and peace,” Mr. Poroshenko said at the meeting. “And nobody will ever cause Ukraine and Belarus to quarrel. I emphasize this, and I received a firm assurance from the president of Belarus that nobody would ever manage to draw Belarus into a war against Ukraine. The Belarusian people and President Alexander Lukashenko will never let it happen.”
On the same day, the Trilateral Contact Group, minus the security subgroup, had a session in Minsk. The sides negotiated the further safe stay of OSCE mission members and their unrestricted access to all places in the conflict area. The economic and humanitarian subgroups discussed the economic “blockade” of the Donbas, the exchange of POWs, and the drawing up of exchange lists, respectively. It was also reported on Wednesday that three Ukrainian soldiers had been killed by Russian and terrorist troops in the Donbas on April 26-27.
Roman BEZSMERTNYI, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the Republic of Belarus (2010-11):
“Bilateral Ukrainian-Belarusian relations should be viewed in the context of relations not only with that country, but also with Russia. While it is ruled by Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus will remain a satellite of Russia. The fate of that country in its present form, just like that of its president, is in the hands of the Kremlin. The real master of Belarus is not just the Russian big business, but Vladimir Putin himself. He has repeatedly shown it to be the case. It can be seen on looking into the analytical data coming from principal Belarusian enterprises.
“Listening to statements by Poroshenko and Lukashenko, I want to say that I do not oppose our president’s ways, he has to say the ritual niceties in his position, but we must soberly assess the situation. The two presidents may say all they want, but the danger which emanates from Russia through Belarus is there and will stay there. If the Kremlin ever decides to use drastic military action against Ukraine, no one will ask Lukashenko’s opinion before using the territory of Belarus. Lukashenko himself is well aware that the documents he signed to create the Union State of Belarus and Russia and the Eurasian Economic Community do not oblige Russia to consult with him before using Russia’s military bases in Belarus and its territory for movements of the Russian military.
“When Lukashenko swears vows of friendship with Ukraine, one should remember, for example, that we have been asking him for 15 years already to allow at least one Ukrainian TV channel to broadcast in Belarus, as there are more than 300,000 ethnic Ukrainians living there, and they deserve the opportunity to hear a word in Ukrainian, but he does not allow it. Instead, Russian channels ORT, RTR, NTV, etc. have been present there for years. Only imagine what is happening in the minds of Belarusians, especially regarding the war which Russia is waging on Ukraine. Look also at what is done in Vitebsk and Gomel regions, where Young Pioneer summer camps host military training sessions. Who are the instructors there? Belarusians who fought for Russia in the Donbas. I know the background of it all and I cannot lie. There is a lot of hypocrisy in our official relations.
“Now to the Minsk talks. It is very telling, for example, that these two nice guys from the occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions are transported in buses and cars of the Russian embassy. They get all supplies they need from the Russian embassy as well. I really enjoyed it when a member of the Ukrainian delegation asked the occupied areas’ representatives when he saw them coming out of Russian-flagged buses once again: “Guys, have you gotten lost and taken the wrong bus, or what?!”
Yurii SHCHERBAK, Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine (1991-92):
“Ukraine and Belarus are the two countries most affected by the effects of the Chornobyl accident. Indicators tell us that Belarus is the most affected country. The percentage of soil contaminated and people affected is higher there than in Ukraine. However, Ukraine, too, has had millions of people affected, especially children. The incidence of thyroid cancer has increased by a factor of dozens. Of course, the overall disease incidence has increased as well, since it is known that radiation suppresses non-specific immunity. We have a lot of serious contributions on the topic that were published by researchers, both Ukrainian and Belarusian. Belarus conducts thorough scientific research in overcoming the disaster’s consequences. The fact that Ukraine and Belarus regularly and friendly communicate new data on the Chornobyl disaster to each other is a very telling and positive development. What is the difference between our countries? The difference stems from the fact that for the last three years, Ukraine has been waging an exhausting war that is itself endangering our efforts to combat the Chornobyl disaster’s effects. The primary danger comes from a possibility of accidental or deliberate destruction of nuclear reactors. The war in the Donbas presented a realistic threat to the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant, which is situated relatively close to the front. This fact should attract the attention of Western leaders. It is not in dispute that Ukraine is waging a defensive war against an aggressor and protecting Europe. It is also important to understand that Ukraine is forced to switch its meager resources to supply the front’s needs. As a result, Ukraine has been forced to cut many programs that existed to combat the effects of the Chornobyl disaster. This is the war factor, which has a very negative impact on our ability to combat the disaster’s effects.
“Among the positive aspects, one should mention the reactor having been covered with a confinement, that is, a special shelter for the ruins of the Power Unit No. 4. We hope that it will be quite reliable. The designers promise that it should last for a hundred years. Clearly, if Ukraine’s economy grows, the funds allocated to address the Chornobyl problem will increase. Still, it is also necessary to remember that no war should make us completely forget the Chornobyl problem. Chornobyl was a severe harbinger of the new security situation in Ukraine, where peaceful, quiet life was interrupted by a disaster that unfolded in sunny springtime. This disaster was a civilization-scale event.”