Four years of complicated negotiations were capped yesterday in Ottawa, when the G-7 and the European Union’s Commission pledged to assist Ukraine with the closure of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Canada, current holder of the G-7’s rotating presidency, signed the memorandum of understanding on behalf of the group as a whole. Kiev will receive $500 million in grants to decommission Chernobyl plus $1.8 billion, mainly in loans, to finance energy and nuclear safety projects. The assistance will be used for supporting and overhauling some of Ukraine’s unprofitable power-generating plants and for building new modern ones. The target date for Chernobyl’s closure, the year 2000, is linked to the provision of adequate aid, which the document says can be increased as specific needs are ascertained. Before the signing ceremony, Ukraine’s environmental minister Yuri Kostenko complained to news agencies about Western economic pressure to accept the deal. As he put it, "We were clearly made to understand that if we did not sign this memorandum, the credits Ukraine needs to modernize its energy sector and resolve other economic problems would be halted." (16)
Ukrainian officials like Kostenko have been confounded by such Western insistence. Nuclear power plants using the same type of reactor as Chernobyl are in operation throughout the territory of the former USSR. One of these, in Kursk, Russia, is located a mere sixty kilometers from the Ukrainian border, yet Western capitals have not clamored to shut them down. Ukrainian negotiators used this as one of their arguments during the long hard bargaining.
Three Kuchma Aides Quit.