Ukrainian Diary – digest of the most important news over the past week (audio)

Ukrainian Diary – digest of the most important news over the past week (audio)

1.    Ukraine marks 32nd anniversary of the Chornobyl accident

On the 26th of April, Ukraine marks the 32nd anniversary of the accident at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant, located near the city of Pripyat in Kyiv region. The explosion of the 4th power unit on the 26th of April, 1986 led to the most massive man-made disaster in the history of mankind. The accident resulted in the release of three hundred and eighty million curies of radioactive substances. 200 thousand are the approximate area of contamination with radionuclides.

Prime Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Hroisman noted in his address on the occasion of the anniversary: "The Chornobyl accident has become a symbol of irresponsible attitude towards the scientific and technological progress and criminal abuses of security rules. The consequences of the catastrophe could be even more terrible and devastating, if not the heroism of hundreds of thousands of liquidators of the consequences of the accident. Their courage and sacrifice helped save thousands of lives. Ukraine will never forget their feat and will always consider the heroes who live among us." And Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko wrote on Twitter: "Today, we must not only make every effort to ensure that this tragedy never happens again. We must learn a lesson from those events. The modern Chornobyl zone should become a place for new advanced technologies, the territory of change."

A number of events dedicated to the 32nd anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy will take place around Ukraine, in particular in Slavutych, which is close to the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant, the annual ecological forum "From the Soul Ecology to the Life Ecology" kicked off at the Chornobyl State Research Center. Director of the Regional Development Agency of Slavutych City Council, organizer of the forum, Arina Starovoitova comments: “It is the 10th Ecological Forum, it has an international status since its start, it has a very powerful history, it has its website. There are speakers who come to Slavutych every year. The agenda of this ecoforum is devoted to the problems of the Chornobyl disaster, the solution to this situation, environmental problems, and the preservation of the environment. The forum's participants are scholars, students and students of our secondary schools in the city of Slavutych. The students of the Kyiv region joined us as well.”

An exhibition of photographs of the Japanese photographer Kadzum Obar "Irradiation", which takes place at the Ukrainian-Japanese center of the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, is devoted to the theme of Chornobyl tragedy. There are 20 photos, each of which reproduces the consequences of the accident at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Project manager Anna Lohvynenko told Ukrainian Radio about the project: “The peculiarity of this exhibition is that all the photos were taken with old SVEMA films, which were found in the city of Pripyat in the 90s of the past century, and then they were passed to the photographer who used them for the project much later than their expiration date. This exhibition shows the story of the girl, her name is Mariya, she is a Ukrainian artist, she will also be at the exhibition. And it’s her portrait that took the first place in the category "People" in the contest "World Best Photo" in 2016. Right after the opening of this photo exhibition, there will be a screening of the film "Mariya and Fukushima", which was shot by Consai Termits, a Japanese television company, about the same girl whose nickname is Mariko Helman.”
In the ‘ghost city’ of Pripyat, memorial events began from lighting up candles. They were lit exactly at 1:24 am, the time when there was the first explosion at the nuclear unit in 1986. According to the organizers of the campaign, in such a way they wanted to revive the city 32 years after the accident.

2. Ukraine-related talks at G7 outreach session in Toronto

G7 partners consider Russia’s attack upon Ukraine to be the attack on the free and democratic world, according to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin. At the meeting of G7 states’ foreign ministers held in Toronto, Canada on Sunday, the topic of Ukraine was in the headlines. The long-term ties of Ukraine and Canada have brought the latter’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland to invite her Ukrainian counterpart to G7 outreach session in order to brief the ministers about threats coming from its Russian neighbor.
In the course of the session dedicated to the Ukrainian issue, the ministers have discussed new challenges that the Russian aggression presumes in today’s global context, as well as the importance of restoring Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. Economic sanctions against Russia are seen as the necessary pressure upon the aggressor state, and their possible extension, as well as the prospects for a peacekeeping mission in the Donbas region, according to statement on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

“Ukraine is perceived by many and also by Russia as a sort of test range for testing Russian non-conventional warfare, that is, hybrid war,” Ukrainian foreign minister told G7 ministers. According to Klimkin, the Kremlin is attempting to destabilize democracy through election interference and other cyber-meddling. “Russia is using Ukraine as a test ground for its information war against Western democracy,” Mike Blanchfield from The Canadian Press quoted him as saying.

The Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Mariana Betsa said in an interview that the West is beginning to understand the threat that Russia presents. “After the attacks in Salisbury and in Syria, the international partners are apprehensive of Russia and its unpredictability. Those events have consolidated the international community in a cautious stance, because they signaled that such things could happen in their home countries too. In my opinion, the measures taken by our partners are unprecedented, especially concerning the sectoral sanctions. Currently the sanctions put in place against the close surrounding of Mr. Putin are very efficient,” - Mariana Betsa told Hromadske Radio.

Meeting in Canada, the diplomats have also agreed on the importance of support for the current reforms in Ukraine, reads the Foreign Ministry’s statement.

Pavlo Klimkin has expressed gratitude to Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland for inviting him. Mrs. Freeland hosted the Sunday’s talks at her home with a traditional brunch that was prepared by her own children.

3. KyivTransConference has taken place for the 2nd time

Transgender issues: challenges and perspectives in modern Ukraine and world conference has kicked off in Kyiv on Monday. The 2-day event is hosting a number of lectures and debates on various aspects of the transgender phenomenon, attempting to address xenophobia and violence against transgender people, which, according to the organizers, make them one of the most vulnerable social groups in the modern world. KyivTransConference is taking place for the second time and is organized by Insight public organization, whose agenda is tailored around LGBTQI problems. In cooperation with the Ministry of Health, the Coalition against discrimination in Ukraine, the ombudsperson’s office, and the Post Soviet Trans*Coalition, the conference is aimed to specifically tackle the lack of understanding among human rights activists, medical professionals, public institutions, scientists and transgender people themselves, which complicates the situation of trans people in many countries around the globe, according to the organizers.

Olena Shevchenko, the head of Insight NGO, explains the general angle of the conference:  “This event is very important for us because it is particularly oriented at the so-called Post-Soviet space, that is, the countries which used to be part of the Soviet Union. The experience that we have in these countries is quite similar, which is why it has to be shared. We have to share our best practices with one another, as well as talk about the problems existing in our countries, and seek for the ways to solve them together. Thus the conference features members of the Post Soviet Trans-Coalition, whereas participants from other countries have also come to tell about their experiences.” She also explained that the agenda of the conference is intersectional, that is, recognizing the fact that different types of discrimination have common roots, and thus advocating for shared efforts in fighting it by people with non-traditional gender identities, people with physical of mental disabilities, ethnic or national minorities, etcetera. Being about the phenomena of gender diversity, the conference is placed at a juncture of human rights and medical discourses. Among the participants, there are members of such associations as Amnesty International, Transgender Europe, Global Action for Trans* Equality, as well as professional medical practitioners.

According to Olena, Insight  has been working with ‘trans’ issues since 2009.In the last years the organization has broadened its network, opening community centers in 5 different regions of Ukraine, based on voluntary work, providing a safe space for discussions within the LGBT communities.

4. The focus of this year's Kyiv International Short Film Festival
Kyiv International Short Film Festival has kicked off on Wednesday Presenting 250 shorts in 3 days. Taking place for the 7th time, the festival is said to be “the biggest regular short film event in Ukraine.” Its endeavor is related to the search of newness in cinema, focusing on Ukrainian films the past and the present, according to the organizers. Also the festival aims to show the outstanding samples of short film industry round the globe. Namely, in cooperation with international partners within Short Matters project, the festival displays a “manifold panorama of the most important young contemporary European filmmaking”.

Director of the festival Kyrylo Marikutsa told about this year’s program in an interview with Ukrainian Radio: “Ukrainian viewers will be able to see the films nominated for the European Academy Awards for the first time, those are shown in 3 different parts of the program. Very talented young directors from France, Caroline Pauvie and Jonathan Vinel are among the key guests this year, they’d received Gran prix in Berlin and taken part in the Cannes FF. Also we have a separate section, where a collection of films from our partner festival in China, the 2-week directing festival from Kaba will be screened.  Another section is dedicated to animated movies, it’s called ‘animated craziness’. What is also interesting is the program of the Oscar-winning films coming from Canada, where one can see movies produced since 1954.” The festival’s team has also prepared a set of meeting events and discussions for professionals and beginners in the industry.

5. 1890s VeloBoom exhibition on cycling opened at National History Museum

The 1890s VeloBoom open-air exhibition opened on Tuesday on the premises of the National History Museum in Kyiv. The project is supported by the Heinrich Boell Foundation – leftist-liberal political foundation close to the German Greens and a part of the European Green movement. The Heinrich Boell Foundation opened its representation in Kyiv in April, 2008 to promote the bicycle as a safe, convenient, affordable, and environment-friendly kind of transport. The exhibition features bicycles that became very popular in Europe in the 1890s.  That was the time when sales of bicycles soared and various associations and amateur clubs of cycling enthusiasts mushroomed in Kyiv and other cities of the Russian Empire.

The 1890s VeloBoom exhibition brings out the pastime culture of the then high society, the experience of cycling in the pre-automobile era, and the contribution of early cyclists to the development of society. It was the bicycle that actually ushered in traffic rules. It also played a significant role in the democratization of social life and emancipation of women.

According to Olga Martynyuk, the organizer of the exhibition, it was made very interesting by architects, graphic designers, historians, and public activists. She says that in the 1890s a bicycle was fashionable and prestigious attribute of the Kyiv elite. Exhibition curator Yaroslav Zatylyuk told Radio Ukraine that one of the objectives is to draw public attention to the problem of road safety in general and safe cycling in Kyiv in particular. “Our exhibition has stands with basic information about different bicycle models that appeared and developed in Kyiv and other Ukrainian and European cities in the last decade of the 19th century, and also about specific traffic rules for cyclists. During this exhibition we plan a special event – a big cycling cruise of Kyiv. In the museum we offer an interactive excursion for children who can learn about the history of transport in Ukraine and how it has influenced urban life in Kyiv. We don’t only want to acquaint visitors with history. We want to draw their attention to such pressing problems of our times as road safety, pollution, and challenges to urban environments,” said Yaroslav Zatylyuk.