This week Kyiv has seen one of its largest ever gatherings of international leaders as Presidents, Prime Ministers and other political figures and experts congregate on Kyiv for two conferences to mark the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.  The first is a pledging conference to secure funds for the New Safe Confinement over the damaged Reactor 4 at Chernobyl; the second is a summit on nuclear safety.  The fact that the conferences come shortly after the nuclear accident at the Fukashima Daiichi plant in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami makes the timing particularly appropriate.

I am delighted that British Energy Minister Charles Hendry is able to visit Kyiv to represent the UK at the two conferences.  At the pledging conference, Mr Hendry announces UK contributions to the latest pledging round worth £28.5 million, in line with the previous UK share of contributions to this important initiative.  This pledge is made up of £5.7m contributed to the Nuclear Security Account in 2008, £3.8m contributed to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund in 2008 and £19m contributed to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund in March 2011.  This is in addition to UK contributions in previous pledging rounds worth over €81m.  Details of the announcement are in the Department of Energy and Climate Change press notice.

I am grateful both to the embassy team and to our partners in Ukraine for making possible a wide-ranging programme for Mr Hendry’s visit.  In addition to the two conferences on 19 April we are able to organise a host of contacts across the three days with commercial organisations in the energy sector and wider British commercial interests, as well as meetings and informal discussions with top-level Ukrainian government ministers.  With our British Business Days in Ukraine in March, it’s been an exciting spring for British commercial activity in Ukraine.  I hope that the summer will see an improved business climate in Ukraine and continued growth in UK-Ukraine trade.

I’ve written before about Chernobyl, including the extraordinary experience of visiting the site and the nearby ghost town of Pripyat;  the fund-raising walk which members of the embassy are doing this week; and even the rather off-beat proposals to develop the site for tourism.  It remains to be seen whether the proposed New Safe Confinement – comprising a massive 257 metre-wide by 105 metre-high steel arch – will itself eventually become a tourist attraction. 

Leigh Turner
British Ambassador to Ukraine

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