Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 98

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk and President Leonid Kuchma’s spokesman Oleksandr Maydannik have sharply objected to the G-7 countries’ statement on Chornobyl, issued at the May 15 summit in Birmingham. The statement urges Ukraine to close down that stricken nuclear power plant by the year 2000, but does not mention the reciprocal obligations of Western countries. In replies made public on May 19 and 20, Tarasiuk and Maydannik–the latter stressing that he had been instructed by Kuchma–ruled out the closure of Chornobyl in the absence of promised Western assistance, due under the 1995 Ottawa memorandum. They commented that the Birmingham statement attempted to shift onto Ukraine the G-7 countries’ responsibility for failing to live up to their commitments. Moreover, as Tarasyuk and Maydannik observed, Kyiv is now reduced to seeking Russian credits and investments in order to complete the power blocks at Rivne and Khmelnitskaya nuclear power plants, before it can proceed to closing down Chornobyl. (UNIAN, Eastern Economist Daily, May 19 and 20)

The Ottawa document, signed by the G-7 countries and the European Commissions (on EU’s behalf) with Ukraine, envisaged more than $3 billion worth of assistance to enable Ukraine to carry out its political decision on closing Chornobyl by 2000. The funds were to have supported chiefly the reconstruction of the cracking shelter and the construction of compensatory generating capacities. However, only a fraction of those funds has been raised, despite Kyiv’s constant reminders since 1996 that it would be unable to carry out its obligations unassisted. The recent board meeting in Kyiv of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development resulted in yet another disappointment to Ukraine on this score (see the Monitor, 5, 8 and 13).

The situation, chronic by now, underscores a gap between words and deeds in West European policies toward Ukraine. Verbal affirmations of Ukraine’s importance to the security and stability of Europe are not being accompanied by serious actions to reduce Ukraine’s risky dependence on Russian energy.