Victor Yushchenko and his wife took part in a ceremony to open an international conference “Twenty Years After Chornobyl Accident. Future Outlook”, according to the President’s press-office.

      In his speech, the Head of State said “the Chornobyl accident has affected many countries and the international community must thereby unite to cope with its devastating aftereffects.”

      “The global scale of the Chornobyl tragedy neglects national borders and political arguments and forces us to address many problems we face now and will definitely face in the future,” he said, adding that Ukraine appreciated the support of its international partners. (He particularly thanked the UNESCO Chornobyl Program, which helped open three rehabilitation centers for children.)

      Mr. Yushchenko said he was convinced that participants of today’s conference “will frankly and substantially exchange opinions and thoughts in order to outline priorities of the post-Chornobyl rehabilitation and development.” He reiterated that Ukraine had lost USD 15 bln over the past twenty years to cope with the aftermath of the disaster.

      “Obviously, we cannot resolve these problems alone. Experts claim Ukraine’s damage would be estimated at USD 170 bln by 2015,” he said.

      The Head of State said Ukraine was observing nuclear safety rules and so urged all members of the Ottawa Memorandum to help our country stop the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant. He also insisted that they should spare no effort to build a new shelter: “We must spare no effort to make the CNPP an environmentally safe place. We must realize that delays can cost us too much.”

      The President also said we should forget the Chornobyl stereotypes and look at the zone anew. He suggested that we carry out scientific research in this area: “It is time to create a multifunctional scientific institute to study all the problems of Chornobyl. It is also vital to renew the polluted territories.”

      Victor Yushchenko then said it was necessary to conduct an international donor conference in Ukraine to outline new modes of cooperation. He urged the EU, UNO, and UNESCO to support this initiative and become co-founders of the forum.

      “It is now important to develop Chornobyl rather than protect it,” he opined.

      The Chief of State said the world must learn its lesson from the Chornobyl tragedy to prevent such disasters: “Today, we put human and environmental safety first. These principles are really important to me.”

      He also urged all to light candles on April 26, 9 AM, to honor the Chornobyl victims.

      Yuriy Yekhanurov, Ukraine’s Premier, Victor Baloha, Emergency Minister, Kemal Dervis, Head of the UN Development Program and Chair of the UN Development Group, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EU Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, Koïchiro Matsuura, UNESCO Director General, Tomihiro Taniguchi, IAEA Deputy Director General, Suzanne Weber-Mosdorf, WHO Assistant Director General, and Eladio Fernandez-Galiano, Secretary of the EUR-OPA Major Hazards Agreement of the Council of Europe, attended the conference.

      The conference, which is being held in Kyiv on April 24-26, was organized by Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, European Commission, IAEA, WHO, UNDP, Council of Europe, European Center of Technological Safety, Ukraine 3000, Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (France), and GRS (Germany). It is intent to strengthen and improve the world’s nuclear and radioactive safety.