Chernobyl is in Ukraine

From civil war to war. That is how the changed situation in Ukraine may be summed up. Russian troops massed at the border are ready to attack Ukraine anytime. For all practical purposes Ukraine remains a bone of contention between pro-Moscow crusaders and pro-EU contenders, leading to civilian deaths.

In Ukraine, an unexpected eruption of mass struggle led to the overthrow of Ukraine's corrupt, oligarchic, and ultimately murderous President Viktor Yanukovych. In Bosnia, at the same time, massive, nationwide discontent with the corrupt system left in place when the 1995 Dayton Accords partitioned the country has led to the equally unexpected creation of new forms of democratic organisation.

These movements continue the profoundly democratic aspirations unleashed worldwide by the Arab Spring. In both cases, the eruption of mass struggle also evokes profound depths of historic memory. It is a unique historic moment, the kind of moment that opens vistas to the future even as it sheds light on the past.

Yanukovych's presidency rose from the turmoil following Ukraine's independence, a part of the wave of movements which overthrew Communist rule in Eastern Europe and Russia. His faction of oligarchs is based in eastern Ukraine, in the old industrial region that was carved up among former Communist Party apparatchiks.

Anti-Yanukovych sentiment initially began last November with a few hundred students coming out to Independence Square (Maidan) to protest his decision to orient toward Russia's proposed economic union. It was Yanuko-vych's brutal treatment of these first protests that eventually brought a large part of Kiev's population into the Maidan. He had tapped into a century's worth of indignation, including the suffering Ukrainians underwent during the Soviet regime and the forced relocation of the Muslim Tatars.

The Ukraine that began to hear and speak for itself in the Maidan was made up of both Ukrainian and Russian speakers; it included historic Jewish and Muslim minorities; and significant parts were played by feminists and LGBT activists.

It speaks directly to the situation facing the protesters in Ukraine, for example with the dual threat of Russian imperial chauvinism and the narrow authoritarian nationalism of Svoboda and the other right-wing forces that had a presence in the Euromaidan.

The interplay of revolution and counter-revolution demands a philosophic comprehension that can help the freedom struggles develop toward full liberation.

Amidst the chaos the world at lerge has forgotten the tragedy that befell Ukraine on 26 April 1986. It was the catastrophe of Chernobyl. The spewing of explosions went on for days. Chernobyl has become (has always been) a responsibility of the world, as is Fukushima/Daiichi. But unfortunately Ukrainians now face another disaster. The full report of Chernobyl episode will never be made public. But even fragments of report are bone-chilling. Little is known about the disaster's effects, whether on people or animals. Chernobyl's children may be the children of regular misfortune, the most traumatic effects may have been social and psychiatric. By 1996, 1086 children had been treated for thyroid cancer and the problem persists along with other slower-developing cancers.

As the plant exploded, two or three men went into the reactor to close off a valve. These men never came out. 'If not for those firemen, there would have an 800-km zone instead of 30'. But consider the 500,000 "liquidators" between 20 and 30 years of age, 59 of whom died outright, 20,000 are now dead, 200,000 are disabled, yet only 59 are named by the state.

Ukraine is running from are crisi to another and crisis means deaths of civilians. When carnage is reduced to numbers real human being and theirĀ  tragedies remain forgotten.


Vol. 46, No. 39, Apr 6 - 12, 2014