Ukrainian Congress Committee of America | April 26, 2022

36 years ago, on April 26, 1986, a tragedy of unspeakable magnitude occurred at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant in Northern Ukraine. On this sad anniversary, the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), the largest representation of over 1.5 million Ukrainians in America, remembers the thousands of deaths directly linked to this nuclear explosion; honors the hundreds of emergency workers who responded to the catastrophe; advocates for justice for the hundreds of thousands who were uprooted from their homes and the millions who suffered and continue to suffer from health issues related to the tragedy at Chornobyl.

In a deliberate act of what can only be seen as negligence and disregard for the safety of millions, Soviet authorities remained silent following an explosion at the plant that blew the concrete roof off Reactor #4 spewing huge amounts of toxic radioactive particles into the atmosphere. Soviet authorities did not initiate evacuations from the immediate area surrounding Chornobyl until 36 hours following the explosion. UCCA will continue to condemn all acts of negligence towards mankind such as occurred at Chornobyl in 1986. In this way, we hope to ensure that the victims of this tragedy are never forgotten and that such callous acts of inhumanity are never repeated again.

Unfortunately, Russia’s illegal and unjustified aggression in Ukraine again jeopardises global safety from nuclear disaster. Russia has targeted and occupied Ukrainian nuclear sites, recklessly damaging the facilities, along with the related war crime of shelling critical civilian infrastructure objects. This jeopardy mounted when a Russian projectile sparked a fire early March 4 at Europe’s largest nuclear plant – the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station at Enerhodar – triggering alarm across the world. The unlawful occupation and the interruption of normal operations at nuclear facilities, including the prevention of personnel rotation, undermine the safe and secure operation of nuclear power plants in Ukraine and significantly raise the risk of an accident.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s atomic oversight body, visited Chornobyl earlier today to mark the 36th anniversary. IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told reporters during the visit that, “the situation was absolutely abnormal and very, very dangerous,” and took the opportunity to condemn the Russian forces’ occupation of the site of the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster for several weeks last month, calling it “very, very dangerous.”

Today, as we mark this solemn anniversary, UCCA reaffirms its resolve to do our part in ensuring that the ongoing needs of the victims of the 1986 Soviet tragedy in Ukraine are not forgotten, while at the same time calling on the international community and all relevant actors to immediately start a global discussion on how to improve existing international instruments to protect nuclear sites in the context of war.

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