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H1N1 Flu Panic in Ukraine

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H1N1 UkraineIn case you have not been paying attention to current events in Ukraine over the past week, or have simply been hiding under a rock, the eastern European country is firmly in the grip of an H1N1 flu panic.

According to the Kyiv Post, 71 people in Ukraine have died from flu or acute respiratory infections since the epidemic began. It is not known if any of those deaths are directly related to the H1N1 swine flu.

H1N1 UkrainePrime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko indicated that through November 2 - 19,198 Ukrainians have contracted the flu and over 236,000 had acute respiratory infections. Citizens are so concerned about H1N1 that many people are now wearing medical masks whenever they go outdoors. Tymoshenko has even commissioned two million face masks to be made in the nation's prisons.

The panic has resulted in extreme reactions including:

  • People staying home from work
  • Schools closed until further notice
  • Food markets closed (by government order)
  • Public meetings banned
  • Roads closed between oblasts (I'm not sure how this can be enforced)

H1N1 UkraineGreetings from Kyiv provides an interesting hypothesis regarding the public's panicked reaction:

Rumors are abounding everywhere about just what is going on in Ukraine. What some people outside of Ukraine don't understand is that there is a history in this country of the government not giving out vital health information (check your history on Chernobyl) and a socialized medical system in which many times doctors do not even communicate to people what kind of disease they have. So it makes sense that Ukrainians are nervous about what is really happening around them.

My friend ModovAnn, who lives in Kyiv, has also posted some interesting insights about the flu panic on her blog.

Photos: trinixy.ru (via English Russia)

On September 30, 2009, four men were arrested for catching fish from the Pripyat River in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

The men, between 28 and 40 years old, had caught 217 fish in their nets worth more than 2,000 UAH (approximately $235 US). The men claimed this was the first time they were in the Exclusion Zone and were fishing only for their own consumption.

Authorities are now checking if any contaminated fish from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone are being sold in markets within the Kyiv region.

The offenders have been banned from future entry into the Zone. Authorities have opened a criminal case against them, under Article 249 of Ukraine's Criminal Code (Illegal fishing). All boats, motors and nets were confiscated.

Geez, 217 fish between four people and it was caught for themselves? Unlikely, unless they planned to cure and smoke it.

Obviously, wood and scrap metal are not the only things criminals try to remove from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. This makes me wonder if Kyiv's food supply is really safe.
After a lengthy layoff, today seems like a good time to return to discussions about Ukrainian politics. Ukraine's next presidential election is scheduled for January 17, 2010. If a second round ballot is necessary, it is expected to occur in February 2010.

According to an August 20, 2009 poll of 3,011 respondents by Kyiv-based Research & Branding Group, the Party of Regions' Viktor Yanukovych will become Ukraine's next president. Incumbent President Viktor Yushchenko has little chance of being a factor in the election. The poll results were:

  • Viktor Yanukovych - 26%
  • Yulia Tymoshenko - 16.5%
  • Arseniy Yatseniuk - 12.6%
  • Petro Simonenko - 4.5%
  • Vladimir Lytvyn - 4.2%
  • Viktor Yushchenko - 2%
  • Others - 7.3%
  • Against all candidates - 9.9%
The same poll provided the following results when asked who they would vote for if Tymoshenko and Yanukovych entered a second round of voting:

  • Viktor Yanukovych - 39.6%
  • Yulia Tymoshenko - 28%
  • Against all candidates - 19%
  • Will not vote - 6.8%
  • Difficult to answer - 6.6%
The poll also asked respondents which political party they would vote for in a parliamentary election.  The results were:

  • Party of Regions - 27.9%
  • Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc - 16%
  • Arseniy Yatseniuk Bloc - 9.2%
  • Vladimir Lytvyn Bloc - 4.8%
  • Communist Party - 4.4%
  • Others - 9.4%
  • Against all parties - 9.6%
  • Will not vote - 7.1%
  • Difficult to answer - 11.6%
President VIktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party fell into the "Others" category. If these results hold through the election, expect some big political changes in Ukraine's government.

Technically, with the exception of less internal bickering, it may be difficult to see any changes in government, but it could very well be a throwback to the Leonid Kuchma era. Remember, Yanukovych was Kuchma's handpicked successor, but still lost to Yushchenko in the 2004 election, due in part to the Orange Revolution.

Don't expect a repeat of the Orange Revolution this time. Yushchenko and Tymoshenko completely blew their chance to effect real change in Ukraine. After all the nonsense of the last five years, all the people want now is a stable political situation and to reverse the course of the country's economic downturn.

Ukraine Strategy for Radioactive Waste

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The Ukrainian government has approved a national strategy for the safe handling and disposal of radioactive waste that has accumulated across the country. Implementation of the plan is expected to start in 2010 and continue for 50 years.

Radioactive Waste Accumulation

At the beginning of 2009, Ukraine had accumulated 2,724,7 thousand cubic meters of solid radioactive waste, including:

  • 1,913 thousand cubic meters in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
  • 600 thousand cubic meters within the Chernobyl Sarcophagus
  • 171 thousand cubic meters from the decontamination of waste disposal sites
The country has also accumulated 42.1 thousand cubic meters of liquid radioactive waste, including:

  • 20,000 cubic meters at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
  • 18,570 cubic meters at other nuclear power plants
Ukraine's Strategy for Dealing with Radioactive Waste

  • Stage 1 (8 years): Establish a national organization for radioactive waste management, removal of radioactive waste from storage plants, establish a container fleet, construct and commission storage facilities for the disposal of short-lived, low- and intermediate level waste and the storage of highly active and long-lived, low- and intermediate level wastes.
  • Stage 2 (30 years): Provide for the burial of short-lived, low- and intermediate level wastes, construct and commission a repository for the disposal of high-level, long-lived, low- and intermediate level wastes and develop technologies for the removal of waste from within the original Sarcophagus at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.
  • Stage 3: Complete the disposal of waste from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and the Sarcophagus. This involves deep processing of radioactive wastes on the sites of nuclear power plants, conditioning and storage of radioactive waste containers with further transport to a central repository, the creation of a certified container fleet and the capacity to produce the vehicles, etc.
The entire project is expected to cost 35.8 billion UAH ($4.32 billion US). For Stage 1, 4.9 billion UAH will be provided from the state budget, the State Fund of Radioactive Waste Management, producers of radioactive waste, international organizations and voluntary contributions.

Happy Birthday Ukraine!

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Today marks the 18th anniversary of Ukraine's independence. Celebrations included a military parade down Kyiv's Khreschatik Street and the placement of a huge flower clock in Independence Square. The clock is huge, with a 5 meter-long minute hand and a 3 meter-long hour hand.  Its diameter is 19.5 meters, the largest in the world.  Yes, the clock does display the actual time.


Поздравляю!

From 1932-1933, approximately 6-8 million (perhaps even 12 million) Ukrainians perished from forced starvation. Also known as the Holodomor or Great Famine, this "forced" famine is considered by many to be a form of genocide. This catastrophe was a type of terrorism implemented as part of Josef Stalin's collectivism policies. In essence, these Soviet policies attempted to force independent farmers into collective farms.

My friend Damian Kolodiy, creator of the documentary film "The Orange Chronicles" about Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution, has posted the following excerpts of recently conducted interviews with survivors of the 1932-1933 forced famine genocide in Ukraine. He hopes to eventually turn his interview footage into a new documentary.


Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada has scheduled the country's next presidential election for January 17, 2010. Parliament had previously scheduled the election for October 25, 2009, but President Viktor Yushchenko appealed to the Constitutional Court, which found the decision to be unconstitutional.

A recent presidential election poll conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology revealed the following results:

  • Viktor Yanukovych (Party of Regions) - 34.7%
  • Yulia Tymoshenko (Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc) - 21.5%
  • Arseniy Yatseniuk (Change Front Citizens Initiative) - 17.6%
If a run-off election is required, it will most likely be held on February 7, 2010. The main question is, if a run-off is necessary, who would face off against Viktor Yanukovych? For a long time, the likely choice was Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. However, her inability to deal with Ukraine's economic crisis has significantly damaged her popularity. Meanwhile, former Rada Speaker Yatseniuk's popularity has accordingly increased.

It is unlikely that Yushchenko will gain re-election, with current popularity ratings in the low single digits and his Our Ukraine party recently withdrawing from Ukraine's ruling political coalition.
RivneNPPOn May 14, 2009, a fire broke out in Unit 1 of Ukraine's Rivne Nuclear Power Plant. Personnel from the Rivne Plant were able to extinguish the blaze themselves. The reactor unit was shutdown for routine maintenance and repairs at the time of the incident.

Some sources reported the incident as only a build-up of smoke, not an actual fire. The incident occurred as the result of a short circuited wire in a storage room at the facility's Reactor Unit 1.

The affected unit is a VVER 440/213 reactor with net output of 361 MWe and started commercial operations in September 1981.

Reactor 1 at Rivne NPP was shutdown in June 2008 because of leakage within the containment vessel. The leak reportedly did not exceed operational limits.

The Ministry of Emergency Measures reported the radiation and ecology at the Rivne Plant and surrounding areas were not affected. Reactor units 2, 3 and 4 are still operational.

Of similar interest, Rivne NPP's Reactor 3 was temporarily shutdown on May 4, 2009 to repair reported malfunctions.

April 2009 Ukrainian Presidential Poll Results

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A recent public opinion poll conducted by the Kyiv International Sociology Institute indicates Party of Regions leader Viktor Yanukovych has increased his lead heading toward the next Ukrainian presidential election.

The poll results are:

  • Viktor Yanukovych (Party of Regions) - 25.6%
  • Yulia Tymoshenko (Prime Minister/BYuT) - 14.4%
  • Arseniy Yatsenyuk (former Parliament Speaker) - 13.6%
  • Petro Symonenko (Communist Party) - 3.3%
  • Volodymyr Lytvyn (current Parliament Speaker/Lytvyn Bloc) - 2.9%
  • Viktor Yushchenko (current President) - 2.4%
Yanukovych's lead has increased from 1.4% in a March poll by the Ramukov Center to 11.2% over current Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. President Viktor Yushchenko remains at the bottom of the poll and continues to lose support.

This latest poll was conducted by interviewing 1,984 Ukrainian citizens between March 26 and April 17, 2009. The margin of error is 2.5%.
A recent Ukrainian public opinion poll conducted by the Raumkov Center indicates former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and current PM Yulia Tymoshenko have the best chance of winning Ukraine’s next presidential election.

The poll results are:

  • Viktor Yanukovych (leader of Party of Regions) - 17.1%
  • Yulia Tymoshenko (current Prime Minister) - 15.7%
  • Arseniy Yatseniuk (former Parliament Speaker) - 11.8%
  • Volodymyr Lytvyn (current Parliament Speaker) - 5.2%
  • Petro Symonenko (leader of Communist Party) - 4.2%
  • Viktor Yushchenko (current President) - 3.5%
The poll was conducted in 129 locations and included 2,012 respondents. The margin of error does not exceed 2.3%.

The results are really not much of a surprise. If anything, this could be a very interesting election