U.S. TO CONTINUE HELPING UKRAINE AFTER CHORNOBYL CLOSURE. U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer on 7 announced that the U.S. will continue to provide financial aid to Ukraine even after the Chornobyl nuclear power plant is closed down, AP reported. "On 16 December, the U.S. is not going to walk away from Chornobyl," he said, adding that Ukraine can also expect assistance from the G-7. The closed plant will need some $30 million to unload its nuclear fuel. Reinforcing the sarcophagus over the collapsed reactor will require $360 million. The closure will also result in the loss of 3,000 jobs at the plant, and 4,000 service staff in nearby towns will be left without a livelihood. The U.S. recently pledged $78 million for the Chornobyl sarcophagus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2000). Pifer said the American ExportImport Bank will also come up with a "substantial" contribution to finance the plant's closure (see also "End Note" below). JM
UKRAINE'S TYMOSHENKO DENIES COMPLICITY IN MONEYLAUNDERING... Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko on 7 June denied she was involved in former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko's money-laundering schemes, as reported by the 6 June "Financial Times" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2000). "I have never in my life conducted any operations with money-laundering," she told Interfax. "It seems to me that some corrupt circles in the shadow energy sector in Ukraine...disseminate various news reports in the world in order to get rid of the government that is putting an end to their shady deals," Tymoshenko added. JM
...SAYS RUSSIA NOT TO PAY FOR FOUR-MONTH GAS TRANSIT. Tymoshenko also told Interfax that between June and September Ukraine will not be receiving natural gas in payment for the transit of Russian gas via Ukrainian territory. Tymoshenko said that in payment for transit services, Naftohaz Ukrayiny in 1999 had siphoned off 5 billion cubic meters of Russian gas to which it had not been entitled "This is the dreadful situation to which we were driven last year," she added. JM
As expected, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma announced on 5 June that the last nuclear reactor at Chornobyl will be shut down on 15 December.
Kuchma made that statement in Kyiv during a six-hour visit to the Ukrainian capital by U.S. President Bill Clinton. The U.S. has been one of several countries appealing to Ukraine for years to decommission Chornobyl.
The nuclear plant was the site of the world's worst civilian nuclear disaster, when reactor Number Four exploded on 26 April 1986, spewing radioactive fallout across Europe. Although most of the fallout fell on neighboring Belarus, radiation was detected as far away as Japan. Today, only reactor Number Three is in operation. Number Two was shut down in 1991, and Number One five years later.
Mils Bohmer, a nuclear physicist working for the Oslobased nuclear-monitoring organization Bellona, says it was the fading likelihood of more Western aid to upgrade Ukraine's rickety energy infrastructure, coupled with growing problems at Chornobyl, that prompted Kuchma to act now. "There have been a lot of technical problems with the Chornobyl reactor," he commented. "Since Christmas the remaining reactor has been [stopped] every other week...because of technical problems."
Tobias Munchmeyer, an anti-nuclear campaigner with Greenpeace, says shutting down the sole operating nuclear reactor at Chornobyl should be relatively problem-free. The most pressing matter now, Munchmeyer says, is finding storage for the spent fuel and other radioactive waste inside reactor Number Three. "The reactor contains [not only] spent nuclear fuel," he notes, "but also tons of light-, medium-, and highradiated nuclear waste, and this has to be decommissioned to be stored somewhere.... The financing for this decommissioning work has been given by G-7 countries."
During his visit to Ukraine earlier this week, Clinton pledged $78 million to rebuild the sarcophagus entombing the crippled Number Four reactor. Next month in Berlin, donors from 40 countries are expected to announce they have secured the necessary $700 million to rebuild the concrete encasement, which was constructed in haste following the 1986 accident, and now has several cracks.
During Clinton's visit, no mention was made of a project that has drawn criticism from environmentalists--the construction of two new nuclear reactors, at Khmelnitsky and Rivne, known as K-Two and R-Four. Ukraine has said the two reactors, which are about 80 percent finished, are needed to compensate for the energy lost from shutting down Chornobyl.
But there is growing Western reluctance to fund the project. Among the most vocal opponents are Germany, Austria and Sweden, which have offered to fund non-nuclear alternatives.
Emmanuel Bergasse, an expert in transition economies at the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA), says Ukraine will have to choose between three main fuels. The first choice, he notes, is "expensive and environmentallypolluting domestic coal, but the reform program of the present government calls for less aid to the coal sector. The second alternative is to put more emphasis on environmentally friendly gas--but...gas is imported at quite a high cost from Russia and other CIS states, and further increases in gas imports would increase Ukraine's dependence on its powerful neighbor. Furthermore..., Ukraine already has a huge gas debt [vis-a-vis] Russia. The third alternative is nuclear power, which is relatively cheap but controversial both at home and abroad and which also would increase the country's dependence on Russia for securing nuclear fuel."
Munchmeyer, Bergasse, and other energy experts say it is doubtful whether Ukraine really needs to build any new energy plants. Instead, Ukraine could meet its energy needs by better energy usage. According to Munchmeyer, "the energy problem existing in Ukraine is a fuel problem and an inefficiency problem. So on the one side, there is a lack of fuel and there is a lack of organization to get the fuel into the right places at the same time. The other thing is this huge inefficiency of the energy system. Ukraine is using five to eight times more electricity for producing goods compared to Western Europe."
Wasting energy is endemic throughout the countries of the former East Bloc. Bergasse says one of the main causes of poor energy efficiency are the high subsidies paid for energy purchases. He says a 1999 IEA study of 10 countries with heavy energy subsidies--including Russia and Kazakhstan-- showed there is no incentive for saving energy whenever energy is subsidized or sold below cost of production.
"The non-payment problem which is pervasive throughout the CIS, although improving of late, is another form of energy subsidy," he explains, "So we calculated that the energy-savings potential of Russia alone is so enormous that if subsidies were abolished in Russia, Russia could save about twice the energy which Ukraine consumes today alone."
Bergasse says remodeling the energy sector is dependent on more overarching reforms. He says the three Baltic states have made the most progress toward cutting energy waste, partly because they have better defined property rights. Baltic homeowners, Bergasse says, feel more secure in making the investment to upgrade their home energy efficiency. CIS countries are still lagging behind in this regard, however.
PATRIARCH GRATEFUL FOR PUTIN'S RESTRAINT. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II told reporters on 7 June that he is highly appreciative of President Putin's understanding of the problems in the relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2000). Alexii said "an invitation to the Pope, who is both the head of state and head of a church, to visit Moscow should also be made by Moscow's Patriarch" as well as by the head of the Russian state. Aleksii charged that the Catholic Church is trying to "expand [its influence] into Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine." A new round of talks between the two Churches is scheduled for next fall, at which time the issue of Catholic proselytism in Russian and Western Ukraine will be raised. JAC
TWO INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS GET TWO WARNINGS EACH. Two independent newspapers, the Russian-language "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" and the bilingual "Narodnaya volya," have received two warnings each from the State Press Committee. That gives the authorities grounds, under Belarusian legislation, to seek a legal ban on the publications. Since another independent newspaper, the Belarusian-language "Nasha niva," was earlier given two warnings, "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" on 31 May concluded that the authorities have begun to prepare for this fall's parliamentary elections by muzzling the independent press. "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" was twice warned against "stirring up ethnic intolerance or discord" for two articles published in February. Those articles, according to the newspaper, discussed how Poland and Israel have worked "toward the truth about Auschwitz." To justify the warning, officials claimed that the newspaper quoted well-known or unknown persons, which allegedly characterize the relations between the Polish and Israeli nations. As a result, the opinions of individuals that "stir up ethnic intolerance are identified with the general attitude of one nation toward the other." The second warning refers to a reader's letter published by "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" in March. According to the committee, the letter "insults the ethnic dignity of those Republic of Belarus citizens who are of Russian origin." "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" responded: "Not touching upon what this statement means (particularly since it was impudently torn out of context), we will simply ascertain the obvious: only a blind person may fail to see that we have here in black and white: ROSSIYANE are Russian Federation citizens, not Russians [in Russian: russkie]." "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" said it will sue State Press Committee Chairman Mikhail Padhayny, who signed the warnings, for what it called his "absurd charges" against the newspaper. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 6 June)
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS PRIVATIZATION OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS GIANT. The parliament on 1 June turned down a governmentproposed bill to privatize the state telecommunications company Ukrtelekom, Interfax reported. The bill was supported by 222 deputies, just four votes short of gaining approval. The Communist and Socialist factions refused to participate in the vote. The bill called for the state to retain 50 percent plus one share in Ukrtelekom. The lucrative telecommunications company is the most important item in the government's list of firms to be privatized in 2000. Some $500 million in budget revenues is expected to be generated this year from privatization. State Property Fund Chairman Oleksandr Bondar said the government next week will submit the bill for another vote. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2000)