30 April 2006

Belarus is not Egypt...?

Milinkevich was sent to the can for 15 days. Why not 15 months?

VVP says to Batska on 29 April: “It was nice to hear that you intend to work constructively with all sides...”

Meanwhile in Egypt:

The government imprisoned Ayman Nour, the distant second-place finisher in the presidential vote last year, on charges of falsifying official documents. Two journalists have been jailed for "defaming" government officials. On Thursday [27 April], a reporter from al-Jazeera television who was working in Dahab, the scene of bombings Monday that killed at least 18 civilians, was detained for broadcasting "false information likely to harm the country's reputation." (Washington Post, 28 April 2006).

27 April 2006

Chernobyl: Vigil

Last night, around fifty people gathered in front of the Taras Shevchenko memorial in Washington to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

They brought candles and little Ukrainian flags. Some brought red and white flags of Belarus. There were silent tears and reflection. An alter was set up. Priests from several Ukrainian churches in the DC area began the solemn liturgy.

Khrystos voskres iz mertvykh, smertiu smert' podolav, i tym, shcho v hrobakh, zhyttia daruvav...

Radiation was not the only thing that disabled and crippled. The Soviet government kept Chernobyl a secret until eerie rumors spread of a catastrophe days later. After deathly government silence, which exposed millions to uneeded curies and roentgen of gamma rays, the same government then told the millions to live in fear. You will die - there's no point in carrying on. You and your children will be deformed, crippled, terminally ill. Khrystos voskres iz mertvykh...Yesterday, a friend sent this to me:

Молитви, псалми можуть навіть знижувати рівень радіації в організмі. Так, група ліквідаторів, які одержали велику дозу радіації під час роботи на Чорнобильській АЕС (після аварії) підтримують своє здоров”я тим, що кожен з них регулярно читає особливим методом (ритмічно, як у церкві) християнські молитви та псалми. Заняття проводяться колективно, під керівництвом учителя (цілителя) - (Сучасна енциклопедія здоров”я та довголіття).

As the group gathered around and prayed, ambulances roared past. A man on a park bench was fighting with his woman: "I bus' you in the muthafucka face!"

26 April 2006

Chernobyl: Fotoreportazh


Chernobyl: 20 Years On (BBC World Service)


5 Kanal Telemarafon

Chernobyl: 1986-2006

"The nuclear lighting of Chornobyl has struck...."
For Whom The Bell Tolls

ESSAY: By Myroslava Barchuk
Welcome to Ukraine magazine
Kyiv, Ukraine, Issue Number One, 2004

In 1986 the Ukrainian poet Ivan Drach came up with a stunning metaphor —
“the nuclear lightning of Chornobyl has struck right into the genotype of
the Ukrainian nation.” Back in 1986, we in Ukraine, could not grasp the full
extent of the disastrous consequences of the Chornobyl "nuclear lightning."
The Chornobyl disaster was to become a moral category.

Like a chain reaction, it spread through our society, it delivered a
devastating blow to the traditional Soviet principles and values, it exposed
brazen, monstrous lies and barefaced cynicism of the Soviet system, and,
eventually, Chornobyl turned out to be one of the causes that led to the
ruination of the evil empire, and paradoxically, to making us free.

T.S. Eliot

April of 1986 stands in my memory for its unprecedented early warmth, pale,
hot spots of sunlight on the ground near the building of my university, and
poignancy of the first, unrequited love.

It was an exceptionally warm spring, with everything in bloom. April 26 was
a Saturday, and a great many people took advantage of the sunshine. Children
were let out of homes to play outdoors; PT classes at schools were conducted
at open-air sports grounds; farmers went out into the fields; peasants dug
in their vegetable gardens; young people went to the sandy beaches; mothers
rolled out their infants onto the alleys of the parks; the old sat on the
park benches enjoying the warmth…

The first official information in Ukraine about the accident at Chornobyl
was published in the communist party newspaper Radyanska Ukrayina (Soviet
Ukraine). It was a tiny piece, at the bottom of the page, saying that there
was an accident at the Chornobyl nuclear power station and that the work to
put things back to normal was underway; those who were injured in the
accident were being given medical help; a government commission was set
up to investigate the matter. Just a little problem that will be easily
dealt with — and not a hint of warning.

The next morning I was woken up by strange sounds that were coming from
the street — trucks, or rather water tanks, were moving along the street
aiming powerful jets of water at the boles of the trees, washing sidewalks
and the road. A vague sense of unease began to creep in. Later, there
appeared columns of huge military trucks, their platforms covered with
tarpaulin, with signs PEOPLE attached to them. These trucks rolled through
the streets heading north.

It was only much later that we were to learn that the “PEOPLE” riding in the
platforms of these trucks were young army conscripts, boys of around twenty
years of age, who were sent to “deal with the consequences of the accident.”
Many of them were to die, saving the country from “the consequences.” But
on those days, right after the accident we just saw the trucks and heard
their heavy rumble.

There were also many cars that were heading in an opposite direction, and
they made very little noise — children and relatives of the communist party
bosses and top Soviet apparatchiks were being taken to safe places in the
south of Ukraine. A friend of my mother’s who had “some connections in high
places” called her on the phone and told her, “Shut all the windows, use
only bottled mineral water, and take your daughter out of town as soon as
possible.” But he provided no explanation, letting us do panicky guesswork
on our own.

On April 30, a well-known pediatrician appeared in one of the prime-time
television programmes, and answering “an unexpected question” posed by
a journalist present, said without any hesitation and very confidently that
there was absolutely no danger for the health of Kyiv children. “Dear
Kyivans, do not let yourselves become victims of unreasonable radiophobia
[fear of radiation]! It’s ridiculous to fear something which poses no danger
at all! The radiation background is now lower than it was before the
accident at Chornobyl!”

30.04.86, Top secret
Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic

Concerning the measures being taken in assisting the population during
the work being done to deal with the consequences of the accident at the
ChNPS (Chornobyl Nuclear Power Station)

The Ministry of Health Protection of the Ukrainian SSR is carrying out
dosimetric control:

data available on April 30 1986 shows that in the city of Kyiv there has
been a sharp increase in the gamma-radiation background from 50
micro-roentgen an hour in the days preceding the accident up to 1,100-
3,000 micro-roentgen an hour.

Besides, there has been observed [radioactive] contamination of samples
taken from the open water reservoirs, [samples] of drinking water, of the
soil, of the leaves, and of the animal fur in Chornobyl, Polissya and
Ivankiv [administrative] Raions.

The highest level of [radioactive] contamination of upwards of 10,000 to
20,000 micro-roentgen an hour has been discovered in the samples of
the soil, leaves and needles of conifers.
[in the original, this document is in Russian]


In order to make it clearer to the reader what 1,100–3,000 micro-roentgen an
hour registered in Kyiv in April 1986 actually means, I supply a quote from
the newspaper Atomnik Ukraine which describes a radiation leak that occurred
at one of the Ukrainian nuclear power stations two years ago:

“On February 16 2002 in the territory of the Khmelnytska NPS there occurred
a leak of radioactive water from a crack in the pipe that connects the
reactor section with the special water purification unit; 30 square meters
of the ground were contaminated, with the level of gamma radiation being 240
MICRO-ROENTGEN AN HOUR… (that is, so many times lower than in Kyiv!
— M.B.) The contaminated soil that totalled 10 cubic meters was removed
(bold itallics are mine — M.B.).

It took the then secretary general of the communist party of the Soviet
Union Mikhail Gorbachev, the supreme ruler of the country in everything but
in name, eighteen days to summon up courage and address the nation and
the world with a message about the Chornobyl disaster.

Among the things he said were these words: “…We have come across
veritable mountains of lies, lies of the most dishonest and vicious kind
[promulgated in the West about Chornobyl]… As far as the alleged lack of
information [about the disaster] is concerned, it’s not true that
informationvhas been suppressed on purpose. There’s been an actual
political campaign launched [in the West] to accuse us of deliberate
suppression of information …”

From a 27 June 1986 order of the head of the 3rd Main Board of the Ministry
of Health Protection of the USSR Yevhen Shulzhenko on “Tightening secrecy
around the measures being taken to deal with the consequences of the
accident at the ChNPS”:

Classify as secret the information about the accident. Classify as secret
the information about the treatment [of those who have been affected] and
its results.

Classify as secret the extent and state of radioactive injury suffered by
the people who have taken part in dealing with the consequences of the
accident at the ChNPS.

From a 4 January 1987 telegram sent by the means of a special high-
frequency communication service from the head of the 3rd Main Board
of the Ministry of Health Protection of the USSR Yevhen Shulzhenko
(telegram # 2; marked: Strictly confidential):

“The diagnoses connected with the injurious effects of the ionizing
radiation include:

… acute case of radiation sickness… chronic radiation sickness… body
organs and tissues affected by radiation… health hazards resulting from
being exposed to radiation, such as leukaemia or leucosis which develop
5 to 10 years after the exposure to radiation of over 50 rads; skin cancer
developing as a result of radiation exposure…; adenoma of the thyroid
gland that develops as a result of radiation exposure of more than 1,000

Note: this document is allowed to be copied by those whom it directly
(“Hail, Caesar, those who are about to die, salute thee!")

April in the Soviet Ukraine was a special month — the time of preparing for
“fittingly celebrating the great holidays of May 1, the International Day of
Solidarity of the Working People of the World, and May 9, Victory Day”
[victory over Germany in WWII]. Floors in schools and offices were polished;
employees and engineers were engaged in washing the office windows,
cleaning the yards, removing yesteryear leaves from the parks.

Flower beds sported portraits of “the beloved leader Lenin” slogans like
“Peace-Labour-May,” or “Long Live Communist Party!” Red-blue banners
(the colours of the Soviet Ukraine).

Artificial blossoms of cherry trees and big flowers of garish colours were
made in thousands to be distributed among the participants of the May Day
civil parade that was to file through the main street of Kyiv Khreshchatyk,
past the viewing stand with the communist party and Soviet bosses greeting

These artificial cherry blossoms affixed by thin wire to freshly cut
twigs and branches were made mostly in schools, and before they were
loaded into the trucks and taken away to be distributed among “the
demonstrators,” they clogged the corridors, lay in piles in gyms and in
the teacher’s common rooms.

On May 1 1986, when the direction of the wind had changed and the
radioactive particles were carried out by the air currents to Kyiv, the
civil parade was to take place as always. We, students of the University,
“privileged,” to take part in the civil parade were to gather at the
university at 7 o’clock in the morning.

Three hours of waiting — and then together with “the celebratory masses,”
we were to march through Khreshchatyk singing patriotic songs, chanting
even more patriotic and cheerful slogans, and waving the artificial flowers.

The morning was chilly and windy. We were not aware of the radiation (three
days earlier on April 28 Swedish monitoring stations reported abnormally
high level of wind-transported radioactivity and pressed the Soviet
government for an explanation) that was carried by the winds from the north
to Kyiv, passing through our homes, our bodies and our hearts — and then
further to Europe — to Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Rumania, Turkey,
Yugoslavia, Greece, Germany and even Great Britain. But we felt there was
something wrong, a vague menace hung over the crowds.

The city, bright-green, young leaves, the rising sun, the banners fluttering
and rustling in the wind — everything seemed unfriendly, alienated, even
hostile. The coloured-paper “blossoms,” all these slogans and posters looked
incongruous, out of place. We shared whatever information we had gleaned
from various sources — Voice of America, BBC and Radio Liberty broadcasts
(at that time jamming of these broadcasts was particularly relentless and
ferocious); hearsay; rumours.

Somebody said that those students who would leave the city, “succumbing
to panic and fail to turn up at the exams will be expelled,” no matter what
the explanations of their absence would be; others said it was advisable to
drink red wine, introduce iodine into the diet and avoid drinking milk…

We marched through the main street, through the waves of loud music and
cheering and hurrahing; people were waving little flags, dancing Ukrainian
dances, greeting the communist bosses on the viewing stand …

The previous night, on April 1986, these people from the top echelons of
power had been fully apprised of the radioactive situation in Kyiv (see
document 1). Years later a German doctor who had treated Ukrainian children
suffering from the cancer of the thyroid gland in the 1990s, told me that if
the authorities had alerted the people right after the Chornobyl accident to
the dangers of exposure to radiation and advised them to introduce the
iodine homoeopathically into their diet, the number of cancer cases could
have been reduced by at least half — small quantities of “normal” iodine
saturating the thyroid gland would have prevented the radioactive iodine
from penetrating into this gland.

But the Ukrainian leaders feared Moscow’s reaction to their “unauthorized”
humanitarian action and not wanting to lose their posts and jobs they had
kept mum and did not cancel the civil parade. And then they stood on the
viewing stand, smiling and waving back, greeting to the unsuspecting people
who carried small children piggy-back marching past them. As it turned out
later, many children on that day were exposed to radiation much above the
safety level.

On the way home from the parade, I saw a column of buses packed with
people — dozens upon dozens of buses with people glumly staring out the
windows, their faces blurred by the bluish-grey exhaust gases. When the
gust of wind carried away the smoke I saw despair in their eyes as the
buses rumbled past me.

I wanted to ask them what was going on but who would answer my
questions? A couple of hours ago they had said farewell to their homes,
never to get back… The mournful column of these buses, with the
Chornobyl black radioactive dust in their wake, preceded and followed
by police cars, their sirens and lights on, roared past.

In the evening of “the Solidarity Day” a friend of my parents, Arthur, paid
us a visit. He was a physicist, specializing in nuclear physics. He said
that dosimeters available at research centres were ordered to be
surrendered to the authorities, and that those who failed to do so, and
used the dosimeters “in an unauthorized way” were threatened with
severe “administrative punishment.” But he did bring a radiation meter
with him.

18 years have passed since that evening of May 1 but even now when I
hear or read the words “radioactivity” or “radiation” I can’t help recalling
the dry, chirping sound of Arthur’s radiation-measuring instrument. It
became louder when he brought it closer to the upholstered pieces of
furniture, curtains, and corners of the rooms. And the rattling noise grew
menacingly loud when he checked the clothes we wore outdoors.

Earlier in April, I had a pair of very nice Lee blue jeans brought to me
from Paris. I had been sporting them in public during the last week of April
and during the parade — they fit excellently and it felt so good not only to
be wearing them but also to be catching envious and admiring glances.

Arthur brought the dosimeter close to a leg of my Lee jeans and the
instrument went wild — the noise it made was deafening! “These pants of
your must be thrown away, or better burned.” What? To burn my Lee jeans
brought to me from Paris? It was a shock the brutality of which can hardly
be understood by anyone who had not lived in the Soviet Ukraine as a
young person.

I rushed to the bathroom and began washing them in the great amounts of
washing powder, I used the special soap, I kneaded the jeans in the suds,
I rinsed them many times — but the merciless dosimeter continued to
announce a great danger, particularly around the seems, pockets and the
zipper… It looked I had to abandon them after all and consign them to the

And then my mother began to urge me to get my things packed - “There’s
a train leaving for Lviv at ten,” she kept saying, “the best place for you
to go to.” I began screaming, “I won’t go! They’ll kick me out of the
university! The day after tomorrow I have an important seminar! I’ll find no
books that I need in Lviv!”

I wept and begged but my mother was adamant. “You’re young, you’ll want
children some day. You must go, pleaaaaase!” And I did. But I felt right
there and then that the happy, carefree childhood had come to an abrupt
end — I had momentarily graduated to adulthood.

When I arrived at the railroad station the scenes I saw there shocked me
even further — crowds at the booking offices; crowds surging in; people
offering the carriage attendants money to help them get on the trains;
people begging to let their children come on board; some were trying to
climb into the carriages through the open windows; others were passing
the children through the carriage windows to those who were lucky to get
on board.

I saw desperate mothers entrusting their very small children to complete
strangers, and asking them, “In Poltava, give them to…”; “In Lutsk, call two
oh three…please and tell them…”; “In Lviv, …” Grown-ups and children
crying and weeping bitterly on the platforms, in the trains — total
confusion, cacophony, and stupefaction. Never before had I seen
anything like this — thousands of people wailing good-byes…

T.S. Eliot

An excerpt from the lavishly illustrated book Prypyat, published in early

“The town was called Prypyat after a beautiful river whose deep current
connects the Belarus and Ukrainian parts of the land of Polissya, and then
rolls on until it empties into the mighty and timeless Dnipro River. The
town emerged as the construction of a nuclear power station began in the
vicinity — the Chornobyl NPS named after Vladimir Illich Lenin.

The opening pages in the working biography of Prypyat were filled when on
February 1970 the construction workers hammered the first pile into the
ground preparing it for the foundation of a first building, and when the
first excavator bucket was filled with soil. The proximity of a railroad
station, a highway and a river determined the choice of the site for the
new town.

A palace of culture [community centre], a house of books [bookstore], a
cinema house, a hotel, four libraries, a school of the arts with a concert
hall, secondary schools of general education, a technical school as well as
a wide network of service centres, cafeterias, cafes and stores were built
in Prypyat. Over ten kindergartens were opened, with a special attention
being paid to the construction of various pre-school and sports

No wonder — the median age of the inhabitants of this infant town is 26
years. Every year over a thousand babies are born there! It is only in
Prypyat that one can see such a parade of proud mothers and fathers
gently rolling baby carriages with tiny tots along the streets and through
park alleys…

Prypyat is striding into the future with confidence. The town’s industrial
enterprises continue to increase their production capacity… The master
plan of the town’s development envisages the population expansion to
reach 80,000 inhabitants. This seat of the harnessed atom will become
one of the handsomest towns in Ukraine!”

From the book Istoriya mist i sil Ukrayiny (History of Cities and Villages
of Ukraine)

“Chornobyl — a town in Kyiv Oblast; a regional centre situated at the
Prypyat river (one of the Dnipro tributaries; a river port. The first
written mention of Chornobyl dates from 1193. In 1362 [Chornobyl] was
captured by the feudal state of Lithuania. After the Union of Lublin in 1569
[the town] came under domination of Poland. The population of Chornobyl
took part in the war of Liberation of the Ukrainian people (1648–1654).
After the second partition of Poland (1793) Chornobyl came under the
protectorate of Russia. The Soviet power was established [in Chornobyl]
in February 1918. Starting from 1941, Chornobyl is a town [that is: it was
given the status of a town].

The town boasts: an iron foundry; a cheese-making factory; a provender
mill; an industrial complex; two technical schools; four secondary schools;
a music school; a hospital; an outpatient clinic; a library. Population —
20,000 people. ChNPS began to be built in 1970, 12 km to north-west from
Chornobyl, at the same time when Prypyat, the town of power engineers
[began to be built].”

The idea to build a nuclear power station in Chornobyl emerged in the
mid-sixties of the twentieth century. On September 29 1966 the Council of
Ministers of the USSR approved a plan of building several nuclear power
stations in the period from 1966 to 1977; some of the new nuclear stations
were to be equipped with reactors of a new type, PAaa-1000. And Ukraine
was to provide sites for some of these nuclear power stations. One of the
sites was chosen in the land of Polissya, about 110 kilometres to the north
of Kyiv.

Reactor No. 1 commissioned in 1977, followed by No. 2 in 1978, No. 3 in
1981, and No. 4 in 1983. Each reactor had an electricity-generating capacity
of 1,000 megawatts, and the four together produced about 10 percent of
Ukraine’s electricity at the time of the accident.

Some of the Ukrainian scientists who were appalled by this idea, argued that
it was insane to build a nuclear power station equipped with highly
unreliable PAaa-1000 reactors in an area so densely populated and at such
a close distance from the capital. A letter signed by over 6,000 leading
scientists, prominent cultural figures and journalists was sent to the 19th
All-Union Communist Party Conference with a request to make changes in
“the programme of the development of electric power generation in Ukraine”
[it was the communist party that took the final decisions in the Soviet

The Soviet leaders and the Ministry of Energy Production reacted in a
typically Soviet supercilious and dismissing manner — “It’s your Ukrainian
syndrome of radiation phobia!” The letter was made fun of. Moscow leaders
and specialists insisted that the PAaa-1000 reactors were “so safe they
could be installed under the beds of the newlyweds!” And went ahead with
building nuclear power stations in Ukraine — one in Rivne Oblast that stood
on the karst land — a limestone landscape, characterized by caves, fissures,
and underground streams totally unsuitable for a nuclear power station to
stand on, and one in the Crimea, at the place of a tectonic fault and excess
of underground water.

From “A 23 July 1981 Report to the Government of the Ukrainian SSR from
Ukrainian scientists” (marked: Strictly confidential)

“…nowhere else in the world nuclear power stations are built at the upper
reaches of big rivers; the River Prypyat which empties into the Dnipro does
not have enough water resources [for a nuclear power station]… The main
concern is a possible contamination of the environment with radionuclides
which are produced in all the cycles of the nuclear power energy production
complex. Carbon-14, krypton-85 and iodine-129 are particularly dangerous.
Consequences of an accident at the Chornobyl NPS, can be very grave and
can result in wide-spread ruination and radioactive contamination of Kyiv.”

From “A Report to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine
from the KGB of Ukrainian SSR about systematic violations of technological
standards during the building-and-erection work done at some sections of
the ChNPS which is currently under construction.”

17 January 1979. Secret Central Committee of the Communist Party of

According to information recently received, at certain sections of the
construction of Reactor Unit 2 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station
(ChNPS) there have been observed digressions from the approved
projects and designs and violations of technological standards in carrying
out building and erection work which [these digressions and violations]
can result in accidents and injuries.

The supports of the control room have been installed with [considerable]
misalignments… panels installed with [considerable] misalignments…
vertical hydro-insulation damaged; [the latter damage] can result i
subterranean waters seeping into the building and subsequent
contamination of the environment…

The quality of concrete used was low and the placing of it in the
foundation faulty…

Neglect and disregard of safety precautions led to 170 workers having
been injured in the nine months of 1978…

Fires broke out in September and October 1978 in the ventilation shaft…
of the main building and in the control room because of negligence…

The present report has been compiled in order to inform…
V.V. Fedorchuk, Chairman of the Committee for State Security [KGB]
of Ukraine [in the original, this document is in Russian]
A special report of the KGB Board of Kyiv and Kyiv Oblast to the 6th
Board of KGB of Ukrainian SSR about faults discovered in the
construction of Reactor Units 3 and 4 of the Chornobyl NPS

17 March 1984. Secret
According to the experts [who have investigated the problem] there are
cracks in the plates that form the floor in Reactor Unit 3 of the Chernobyl
NPS … and in the supporting frame… which constitutes a danger for
Reactor Unit 3.

…A similar situation has been discovered at Reactor Unit 4.
[in the original, this document is in Russian]

The nuclear power station at Chornobyl was built in a typical Soviet
manner — “shock work done at an accelerated tempo.” And desirably to be
completed before a particularly important Soviet holiday, like an
anniversary of Lenin’s birthday, or of October 1917 Revolution. In her book
about Chornobyl, the Ukrainian journalist Lyubov Kovalevska quotes the
testimony of Oleg Mastynsky, a television cameraman whose job was to shoot
the commissioning of Reactor Unit 4: “Nobody paid any attention to me and
wandered about the building. Everywhere I saw piles of construction waste.

When I walked into the control room, the first thing I saw was the ALARM
sign. When I asked what’s going on, I was told that it was all right, just
checking things. When I saw that the control rods were about to be lowered
into the reactor, I asked where I could find a chair to stand on so that I
could shoot the procedure from a more advantageous angle. One of the
operators told to climb right on to the control panel.

I was quite taken aback — to stand on the control panel of a nuclear
reactor! ‘It’s all right,’ said the operator nonchalantly. ‘There’s nothing
inside yet. And he opened a sort of a flap on the panel so that I could look
inside. I did — and indeed, there was nothing inside! And the reactor was
about to be pronounced ‘ready for action’!”

“And the third angel sounded,
and there fell a great star from
heaven, burning… And the name
of the star is called Wormwood:
and the third part of the waters
became wormwood, and many
men died…”
The Revelation of St John the Divine, 8:11-12
[Chornobyl is the Ukrainian word for Wormwood]

The official report about “the accident at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power
Station named after V.I. Lenin” enumerated the technical sequences that
led to the explosion. But what did actually cause the reactor to explode?
The official statement, prepared for the International Agency Atomic
Energy said that the primary cause “was a series of violations of an
exceptionally unlikely nature of the safety procedures by the plant

The accident occurred at night on April 25– 26, 1986, when technicians at
reactor Unit 4 attempted a poorly designed experiment. The instructions
said: “Turn off the reactor cooling emergency system” during a planned
shutdown. Following the instructions, plant personnel intended to monitor
the performance of turbine generators, which supplied electric power for
the plant’s own operation, during a changeover from standard to a backup
source of power. The reactor’s design made it unstable at low power, and
the operators were careless about safety precautions during the test.

Workers shut down the reactor’s power-regulating system and its emergency
safety systems, and they withdrew most of the control rods from its core,
while allowing the reactor to continue running at 7 percent power — with the
reactor’s cooling emergency safety systems turned off for 11 hours! At 1:23
a.m. on April 26 the chain reaction in the core went out of control. Several
explosions triggered a large fireball and blew off the heavy steel and
concrete lid of the reactor.

This and the ensuing fire in the graphite reactor core released large
amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere, where it was carried
great distances by air currents. A partial meltdown of the core also
occurred. It was the worst nuclear power accident in history — in fact, the
most terrible man-made disaster as far as its consequences are concerned.

An estimated 100 to 150 million curies of radiation (primarily radioactive
isotopes of iodine and caesium) escaped into the atmosphere before the
cleanup crews were able to bring the fires under control and stabilize the
situation. Initially, prevailing winds carried the radioactivity northwest
from the plant across Belorus and into Poland and Sweden. Between 50
and 185 million curies of radionuclides escaped into the atmosphere —
many times more radioactivity than that created by the atomic bombs
dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

This radioactivity was spread by the wind over Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine
and soon reached as far west as France and Italy. Almost 20 percent of
Ukraine’s farmland was removed from production during the years immediately
after the accident. 27,850-sq km (10,750-sq mi) area was described as being
“seriously contaminated” by radiation (part of this area is in Belarus). A
territory roughly equal in size to that of Denmark or Holland was made no
good for farming — or for living.

Three and a half million people were affected, one million of them —
children, four thousand of whom were physically or mentally handicapped at
the time of the accident. 600,000 to 800,000 thousand people worked at the
cleanup and containment — cleanup crews were called likvidatory, or

According to the International Society Chornobyl, about 7,000 “liquidators”
have died of the diseases caused by radiation. According to the official
statistics of the Ministry of Health Protection of Ukraine, only 10.3
percent of the “liquidators” can be considered “healthy”; the number of
“healthy children” (who are grown-ups now) among those who have been
affected by the consequences of the accident is down to 2 percent; the
number of handicapped among them is four times higher than the average
figure of the handicapped to be found in a similar number of people
elsewhere in Ukraine.

The last letter written to his family by Viktor Dehtyarenko, an operator at
Reactor Unit 4 who died of radiation sickness in early May 1986 in
Moscow’s Clinical Hospital No 1:

“My dear Tanya, Vera and Illyusha,

the moment they brought us envelopes I got down to writing you a letter. I
can’t write myself [the letter was dictated to a nurse who wrote it down]
because of the burns on my hand. We flew into Moscow quite fine. We
found accommodation [sic!] at a good hospital, they [medically] treat us
well, only professors and doctors [meaning: among the physicians were
only professors and doctors of medical science]. So don’t you worry about
me there. Everything’ll be all right! Write how kids are doing. Don’t
delay —

write back as soon as possible! [bold is mine — M.B.] Love you and kiss
you, Yours, Vitya”

Every radionuclide has its own time in which it loses its radioactivity;
half-time of some are several seconds; of others — million of years. Among
the radionuclides that were hurled into the atmosphere during the accident
at Chornobyl and polluted the environment with radioactive isotopes of
strontium and caesium have a half-life of 30 years. Ecologists say that the
ecological situation in Ukraine will return to what it was before the
Chornobyl accident in ten half-times — and the biologists say that the
genetic balance is regained in seven generations.

But of no less damaging is the effect the disaster had on people’s minds
and hearts. The remarkable Ukrainian poetess Lina Kostenko once said,
“A radiation meter is no good for measuring the doses of the devastation
of the soul.” The exploded reactor at Chornobyl made thousands upon
thousands of people leave their homes for good. Human, ethnographic
and cultural continuity was brutally broken.

Hundreds of villages, small human communities with their unique local
traditions, customs and beliefs, ceased to exist. Houses remained
standing and growing derelict but the people who had lived in them are
gone — people who had been living there for hundreds of years. The
nuclear flame burned out folk music, folk art, the style of peasants’ life
that had been developing for generations.

“A voice was heard…, wailing and loud laments;
it was Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing all consolation,
because they were no more.”
Matthew, 2: 18

It was Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965), Alsatian-German philosopher, and
mission doctor, who put forward an ethical moral principle of “reverence
for life.”

The Chornobyl disaster swept all the moral imperatives aside and brought in
new ones, political and economic. In order to conceal the individual doses
of radiation exposure, “a safe collective radiation exposure dose” was
introduced. Thus, 200,000 conscripts (the actual figure may have been
different but the Ministry of Defence of the Soviet Union had never been
known for the accuracy of the data it provided) who were brought in to do
the clean-up, were pronounced as being out of danger since their
“collective cumulative dose” was estimated to be well within the
established “safe margin.”

The newspaper Pravda, the organ of the Central Committee of the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union wrote on May 19 1986, “There is
one unwritten law in ‘the zone’ that is always adhered to — Take care of
the people!” [“zone” — a fenced 40-mile-wide circle, cleared of its
residents, was called the Zone of Estrangement]

16 May 1986. Secret
To: Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
From: V. Gubarev,
Pravda editor, Science Department

“From May 4 through May 9 I stayed in the region of the ChNPS. I consider
it important to share some of my observations.

1. Evacuation of Prypyat. An hour after [the accident] it was clear what the
radiation situation was [meaning: it was high] but no emergency measures
were taken. The residents did not know what to do.

2. Clean-up work at the dangerous places was done by soldiers who were
not wearing any individual protection (some worked as close as 800 meters
away from the [ruined] reactor)… The helicopter pilots were also exposed
[to strong radiation]. All of them are young people and consequently it will
affect [their reproductive system and their] progeny.

3. The entire system of civil defence was completely paralyzed; no
dosimeters in a working condition were available [which the local ‘civil
defence’ bodies were supposed to have among all other things, like gas
masks, etc.]

4. I was struck by the complete lack of initiative on the part of the local
authorities — they did not have any footwear, clothes and other necessities
to issue to those who had been affected by the accident — they were just
waiting for instructions from Moscow.

5. There were many reasons that caused panic in Kyiv, but the main factor
[that provoked panicky feelings] was the absence of reliable information…
When it became known that children and families of the managing workers
[Soviet term for communist party bosses and top executives] were being
taken out of town, a wave of panic rolled through the city. Even at the
booking offices of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine
about a thousand people stood in lines…” [the original is in Russian]

“To take care of the people” meant to have them working in “the zone” as
long as possible, regardless of the doses of radiation they were exposed
to. Several operators died in the control room; twenty firefighters died of
radiation exposure fighting the fire on the roof of Reactor Unit 4 — when
they arrived at the scene they were wearing their usual firefighters’
thermal suits but nothing to protect them against the fierce radiation of
1,000 roentgen. They were putting the fire out with no electric light, in
the noxious vapours for over an hour, and the radiation they were exposed
to was lethal many times over.

Later, a group of firefighters released — wearing no special protective
suits either — the radioactive water from under the ruined reactor, thus
preventing a potential explosion of nightmarish consequences. The young
conscripts brought in to do the cleanup, were removing the radioactive
debris and pieces of radioactive graphite from the territory of the power
station and from the roofs with their bare hands, and the personnel of the
three remaining reactors were working round the clock to prevent any
further accidents.

Helicopters were unloading concrete, lead, sand and other materials into the
gaping hole on the roof of Reactor Unit 4 to smother the nuclear monster and
prevent the chain reaction. The pilots performed over 1,800 flights over the
reactor. Every time they flew over the reactor on April 27, they received a
dose of 80 roentgen.

A possible nuclear conflagration was prevented — the chain reaction did not
progress, no further and no nuclear explosion occurred. But on May 3, a
great upsurge of radioactivity coming from under a huge mound of concrete
and lead piled up on top of the reactor was observed, and on May 9 several
tons of sand and clay suddenly sagged into the void formed by the burned
out graphite. The menacing black cloud that escaped from the bowels of
the ruined building covered the sky.

When all this was happening, the newspaper Pravda wrote on May 8: “The
working collectives in Polleskoye and Ivankiv Raions which neighbour
Chornobyl Raion, have never before worked with such enthusiasm and
determination. All in all, the spring wheat was sowed on 650,000 hectares of
land — a hundred thousand hectares more than last year! — and the quality
of work done was much higher than last year.”

Spring wheat sown on the radioactively contaminated fields? — plans had
to be fulfilled, Soviet style, no matter what. The radioactive situation in
the area was closely monitored, it was perfectly well known in high places
how catastrophic the situation was — and yet the uninformed farmers,
oblivious of the radioactive dangers, were given a go-ahead with the sowing.
And the gruesome facts were kept secret from the general public.

From “Report No 12 about the content of radionuclides in samples of
agricultural products on August 13 1986”:

“…The content of radioactivity in agricultural products [fruit and
vegetables] is from 58 to 85 percent [above the safety level], and in
the grains it is 58 times higher than the safety level…”

Many of “the liquidators” suffering from various diseases that developed as
a result of radiation exposure, were left without adequate medical or
financial support; many of the servicemen who were used in the cleanup,
were refused the status of “the liquidators” because they could not prove
they had participated in the cleanup effort in 1986 — they did not have the
necessary documents certifying their participation — these documents
were allegedly burned “because they were radioactively contaminated.”

Monthly allowances for those living in the contaminated Chornobyl Zones:
• Zone Two — 2.6 Hr
• Zone Three — 2.1 Hr
• Zone Four — 1.6 Hr

Monthly allowances for those working in the contaminated Chornobyl Zones:
• Zone Two — 13.26 Hr
• Zone Three — 10 Hr
• Zone Four — 5.2 Hr

At the current rate of exchange, one Ukrainian hryvnya is about 20 US cents;
5 hryvnyas buy two loaves of bread, or two littres of milk, or a half pound
of cheese, or a half-pound of meat, or six pounds of potatoes, or two pounds
of oranges, or 5 hr pay for about one thirtieth of a monthly rent (these
average figures differ from region to region).

From “Instruction of the Central Military-Medical Commission of the Ministry
of Defence No 24 of 8 July 1987”

“…When medical certificates are issued to persons who were engaged
in [cleanup] work at the ChNPS but have not contracted acute radiation
sickness… the fact of their participation in the said work is not to be
mentioned in the certificate; neither must the cumulative dose below
radiation sickness be written in.”

“Sarcophagus” is the popular nickname given to “an enormous
concrete-and-steel protective shell over the damaged reactor to prevent
radioactive materials, including gases and dust, from escaping.” It took
400,000 cubic meters of concrete and 7,000 tons of steelwork to build it.
The “Sarcophagus” is 61 meters high, and its walls at the thickest places
are 18 meters thick. Almost a hundred thousand people were involved, at
one stage or another, in its erection.

It was hoped that the Sarcophagus would prevent radioactive materials
from getting out and water from getting in for at least fifty years. But ten
years later, it was discovered that the shell was leaking both ways. Experts
said that it was bad news that water was finding its way into the
sarcophagus — no one can tell what exactly is going on inside the ruined
reactor. In fact, no one knows where the remaining 70 tons of nuclear fuel
are. 70 tons — it is only one of the estimates.

According to the official version of the events, only 3 percent of the
nuclear fuel went into the atmosphere during the fire; some of the
scientists are of the opinion that only 3 or 4 percent of the nuclear fuel
remained trapped inside, with the rest having been thrown into the
atmosphere by the explosion and the fire. It is extremely difficult, if not
altogether impossible, to come to any definite conclusion — a great many
tons of sand, lead, concrete and other materials were dropped onto the
reactor through the gaping hole in the roof. All these materials must have
melted into an inextricable and inseparable mass. It cannot be even stated
with full confidence that no chain reaction is possible any more.

The sarcophagus is not only leaky — another major concern of the engineers
and physicists watching it is its structural unsoundness. It was erected too
hastily and conceivably it could topple in an earthquake or in extreme
winds. The reactor building walls which were damaged in the explosion are
unstable too. Still another concern is radioactive dust trapped inside —
tons and tons of it.

Paradoxically, the nuclear power station was not shut down until 15 December
2000, after many delays. Back in 1997, a project to build a new shell was
agreed upon between Ukraine and the G7 countries; it was also planned to
turn the whole zone into an ecologically safe area. According to the Shelter
Implementation Plan (SIP) which was worked out, all the radioactive waste
and rubble were to be removed and safely buried but because of lack of
funding no work will begin earlier than 2005. In the meanwhile the
sarcophagus whose official name is Obyekt Ukryttya (“Object Shelter”) is
being continuously monitored and reinforced.


Est dolendi modus, non est timendi — There is a measure in sadness,
but there is no limit to anxiety. I saw this Latin phrase inscribed over the
entrance to the National Museum of Chornobyl. The museum that was
opened 12 years ago, has become a symbol of a national tragedy and
of a reminder of the calamity preserved in the national memory.

From the lobby of the museum you ascend the steps, the symbolic road to
Chornobyl, with an uprooted apple tree on the way and its red apples rolling
down the stairs right under your feet. The tree of good and evil?

As you continue your ascent, you see the road signs with the names of
76 towns and villages of Ukraine whose population was evacuated —
160,000 people of the land of Polissya, uprooted and scattered over the
world like those red apples. The dead human settlements killed by the
radiation unleashed by human negligence and indifference.

Says Anna Korolivska, museum’s deputy director:

“Our aim was not just to show relics from Chornobyl — incidentally, most of
them were very badly contaminated and we exhibit only those things which it
was safe to exhibit — an iconostasis from an old church, old window shutters
from peasant houses, embroidered wedding shirts, embroidered decorative
towels and old photographs.

We wanted to show the way the tragedy affected people emotionally and
psychologically. We do not put any blame for what happened on any one,
we do not point the accusing finger at the culprits…We want the visitors to
get at least a general idea how it felt to be there after the explosion…

The museum’s interior and exhibition were designed by Anatoly Haydamaka,
one of the best Ukrainian painters of today. His approach was that of a
philosopher of great insight and of an artist of great compassion. He did
manage to make us feel anguish and pain. We do get the message, we
realize that Chornobyl concerns all of us.

A friend of mine told me that on one of the memorials in Hiroshima he saw
an inscription that said: “Sleep peacefully — the mistake will not be
repeated.” Will such an inscription ever appear in Chornobyl or in Prypyat?

Chornobyl is our common destiny. Its consequences are irreversible and
eternal — for all of us. The truth is — the world is one and indivisible,
any attempt to crack up the world’s indivisibleness leads to the crack-up
of the world itself, of its very foundation and of its most profound values.

What John Donne said almost four hundred years ago holds very much true
today: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the
Continent, a part of the main; if a Clod be washed away by the Sea, Europe
is the less…; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in
Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls
for thee.” -30- [Edits by The Action Ukraine Report Monitoring Service]
Acknowledgement: I want to express my sincere gratitude to the National
Museum of Chornobyl, and to Anna Korolivska in particular, for help that
was given me in my work on this essay. Myroslava Barchuk

National Museum of Chornobyl
1 Khorevy Provulok, Kyiv, Ukraine
Tel.: + 380 (44) 417-5422

23 April 2006

Bush Congratulates Yanukovych Victory

Advisor to the US President, deputy aid on national security Jack Dyer Crouch delivered George Bush’s congratulation with the end of democratic elections in Ukraine and convincing victory of Party of Regions to the party leader Victor Yanukovich, as reported press office of PR.

Mr. Crouch also underlined that American government looks forward with optimism to the development of Ukrainian-American relations.

During the meeting Yanukovich and Crouch discussed issues concerning continuation of economic reforms in Ukraine, creation of corresponding conditions for investments. The parties agreed that the present conditions are the most favourable for development of relations between Ukraine and the USA. However, according to their opinion, the most important thing for Ukraine now is unity and achievement of political and economic stability in the state (Yanukovych's official website).

21 April 2006

Left, Right, Up, Down

Yesterday, Alexander Paskhaver, an outside consultant to the president, held a briefing in the presidential headquarters and stated that a union with the Party of the Regions makes the most sense ideologically and economically. “The Party of the Regions is a rightist party,” Paskhaver commented, “that proposes cooperation between the state and large financial and industrial groups. Our Ukraine is a center-rightist party with predominantly liberal views and evolutionary approach.” Paskhaver ascribed the remaining parties to the Left. “The Socialists, judging from their program, are a leftist party. I cannot say that the Yulia Timoshenko Bloc has a definite program but, judging from past experience, when administrative intervention was predominated in the economy, that party is unconditionally leftist. Even further left than the Socialist Party.”
Kommersant, 20 April

19 April 2006

Identity revisited

AP, 19 April: A former Japanese soldier last seen by his family when he went off to fight in World War II said Tuesday he was eager to visit his parents' graves and see Japan's famous cherry blossoms. Ishinosuke Uwano, who was declared among Japan's war dead in 2000, resurfaced in Ukraine and is expected to arrive in Japan on Wednesday for a 10-day visit with relatives. "I would like to visit my parents' graves and to see cherry blossoms," Uwano, 83, said at the main airport in the capital, Kiev, before traveling to Japan with one of his sons.

Speaking Ukrainian and wearing a traditional Ukrainian cap over his gray hair, Uwano told a handful of reporters he has no plans to live in Japan. "Ukraine has become my homeland," he said. A Japanese official in charge of locating war veterans lost overseas, Suminori Arima, has said Uwano would visit surviving relatives in Iwate, about 290 miles northeast of Tokyo. Japanese Public broadcaster NHK said Uwano was drafted in 1943 to fight on the island of Sakhalin in Russia's far east — north of Japan. He was there when the war ended in August 1945 and last reported seen on the same Pacific island in 1958. He never returned to Japan or contacted relatives there, and in 2000 his family agreed to register him as having died in the war.

Japan's Kyodo News agency said Uwano moved to Ukraine in 1965 and has three children. He lives in Zhitomyr, a city about 90 miles west of the capital, Kiev, the report said. Uwano asked someone in his local community to help him track his Japanese relatives and eventually he was interviewed at the Japanese Embassy in Kiev, Arima said. The government believes about 400 former Japanese World War II soldiers are living in the states of the former Soviet Union, and 40 of them have been identified.

This challenges preconceived notions of Ukrainian identity.
Even though he speaks derzhavnu movu, Mr Uwano's "Ukrainianness" comes from his state identity, as opposed to an ethno-linguistic one.

According to a recent UN report, 75% of international migrants are concentrated in just 28 countries, with the US as the number one destination followed by Russia, Germany, Ukraine and France.

18 April 2006

"Unclear Energy is our obviouse right"

"Environmental watchdog Greenpeace International says more than 90,000 people have already died or are expected to die from cancer-related diseases as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986. Data released Tuesday contrast sharply with an earlier U.N. report that estimated the final death toll from Chernobyl would be closer to 4,000 lives" (VOA, 18 April).

10 April 2006

Yummy Yulia

Luhans'kkholod company has created a new brand for the Ukrainian market - "Yulia" ice cream in the shape of a heart (TabloID, 10 April 06).

The article describes this as "extreme marketing." I wonder what Andrei Yushchenko, owner of the orange TAK! brand, thinks of that.

08 April 2006


i took this photo on my way to work in the dc starbucks concrete jungle.
i think that the orange backdrop was done on purpose.
can you imagine "minsk: unspoiled by guidebooks"?

Latest article

Людмила Павлюк, Адріан Ерлінджер
Парламентська кампанія 2006: парад ідеологій і технологій | текст

Lyudmilla Pavlyuk, Adrian Erlinger
Market of Electoral Appeals, Electoral Hypnosis: Advertising Landscapes of the 2006 Parliamentary Campaign | text

Медія Критика
| Media Krytyka

07 April 2006

Ukraine is not Eurasia

"There have never been and never can be pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. It is not for nothing that Leonid Kuchma titled his book "Ukraine Is Not Russia". And we should understand that any Ukrainian pursuing a pro-Russian policy is a person who wittingly or unwittingly seeks a reunification of Ukraine and Russia. So, a pro-Russian policy in effect negates Ukrainian statehood, and Yanukovich could not be a pro-Russian politician and is not one today. In my opinion, it would be a big mistake on the part of the Kremlin to regard Kuchma and Yanukovich as its own men. They are not our own men, so, every Ukrainian politician will play his game in his interests. For example, Yanukovich's interest is in having Russia subsidize Ukraine by supplying cheap energy, while Ukraine pursues an independent foreign policy and is not integrating with Russia any further than to the depth of the free trade zone. Let me remind you that the agreement on the common economic space that is so much talked about and that was initially signed by Yanukovich and Kuchma envisaged nothing more on the Ukrainian side. No economic union." (Dmitry Trenin, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 29 March 06).

Someone call the career diplomats and let 'em know that Ukraine is located in Europe, not "Eurasia." The concept of "Eurasia" is quickly turning into this nightmare.

Gaz Guzzler

The truth is that [the Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova] price increases are not political. Rather, they reflect worrisome economic and geological facts about Russian gas fields. The Kremlin is not simply trying to use Gazprom to reassert authority in Belarus, Ukraine or anywhere else. There are in fact deep problems with Gazprom -- problems created by its inefficient management and a looming decline in gas production...

...Even when the Russian economy was in the doldrums the country was notable as a large gas consumer because of its extremely inefficient energy system. Today Russia is the world's second-largest gas user, after the United States, although its economy is only one-twentieth the size of the U.S. economy (Washington Post, 6 April 06).