Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolitan Vladimir, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill pray for Chernobyl disaster victims at St. Elias Cathedral near Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Combined reports
KIEV – Ukraine marked on Tuesday the 25th anniversary of an explosion at the No 4 reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on April 26, 1986, which sent a cloud of radiation over large areas of Europe and affected about 9 million people, Ria Novosti informs. Early on Tuesday, President Viktor Yanukovych attended a candle-lighting service led by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in the capital, Kiev. “The world had not known a catastrophe in peaceful times that could compare to what happened in Chernobyl,” Patriarch Kirill said, according to the BBC.
“Chernobyl has become a global challenge, which can be dealt with successfully only through consolidated efforts by the global community,” Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said in an address posted on his official website. Yanukovych lamented the fact that Ukraine had to tackle the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident alone for two decades, and said that no country is immune to similar disasters, as Japan’s nuclear crisis following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami clearly shows. Ukraine, along with the European Union and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, is building a new shelter to cover the ruins of Chernobyl’s No 4 reactor and the existing concrete and steel sarcophagus. An international conference in Kiev last week raised 550 million euros of the 740 million euros needed to finance the new radiation shield. The president said the donations would allow Ukraine to build the new sarcophagus by 2015.
Yanukovych and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, are visiting the site for a memorial ceremony, the BBC informs. Medvedev earlier said Russia would allocate 45 million euros for the shield’s construction in the next two years. The Russian president also called for greater transparency during nuclear emergencies. “Chernobyl became a lesson for all mankind and made us reconsider the safety and security of nuclear power generation,” Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in a statement.
The anniversary comes amid renewed global protest over nuclear power. The debate has been reinvigorated by the threat of radiation from Japan’s crippled Fukushima plant in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake and tsunami. On Monday, thousands of people in France and Germany staged protests calling for an end to nuclear power.