Inmates in rebel-held Ukraine return to school behind bars

UNTV News   •   September 3, 2019   •   531

The new school year started for 40 inmates from the Kirovskaya prison colony as they gathered on Monday (September 2) for the first school day assembly and returned to the classroom in the rebel-held city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

The prisoners who have not completed a school year attended a history lesson in the new prison school. They used workbooks printed by the Ministry of Education of Self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.

Dmitry Pentugov, one of the inmates at the Kirovskaya prison colony, said his favourite subject was chemistry and that he hoped to pursue a future in this field.

School director Mikhail Petrischev said inmates would be attending classes at three levels – the ninth, tenth and eleventh grades – and would study the same subjects as schoolers in the Donetsk region except industrial arts, physical education and preliminary military training.

Rebellions broke out against Ukrainian government rule and set up two states in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in 2014 shortly after a pro-Russian president was toppled in Kiev in a popular revolt.

Moscow provided military help for the separatists in the east, according to evidence gathered by Reuters, though Russian officials have denied providing material support. (REUTERS)

(Production: Anastasia Adasheva, Alexander Ermochenko)

Fire raging near Ukraine’s Chernobyl poses radiation risk, say activists

UNTV News   •   April 14, 2020

A huge forest fire in Ukraine that has been raging for more than a week is now just one kilometer from the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant and poses a radiation risk, Greenpeace Russia warned on Monday (April 13), citing satellite images.

Ukraine’s Emergency Situations Service said it was still fighting the fires, but that the situation was under control.

Aerial images of the 30 km (19 mile) exclusion zone around the plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986, showed scorched, blackened earth and the charred stumps of still smouldering trees.

The Emergency Situations Service said radiation levels in the exclusion zone had not changed and those in nearby Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, “did not exceed natural background levels.”

Greenpeace Russia said the situation is much worse than Ukrainian authorities believe, and that the fires cover an area one thousand times bigger than they claim.

On April 4 Ukrainian authorities said the blaze covered an area of 20 hectares, but Greenpeace cited satellite images showing it was around 12,000 hectares in size at that time.

“According to satellite images taken on Monday, the area of the largest fire has reached 34,400 hectares,” it said, adding that a second fire, stretching across 12,600 hectares, was just one kilometre away from the defunct plant.

Ukrainian officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on those claims.

Rashid Alimov, head of energy projects at Greenpeace Russia, said the fires, fanned by the wind, could disperse radionuclides, atoms that emit radiation.

“A fire approaching a nuclear or hazardous radiation facility is always a risk,” Alimov said. “In this case we’re hoping for rain tomorrow.”

Chernobyl tour operator Yaroslav Yemelianenko, writing on Facebook, described the situation as critical.

He said the fire was rapidly expanding and had reached the abandoned city of Pripyat, two kilometres from where “the most highly active radiation waste of the whole Chernobyl zone is located.” He called on officials to warn people of the danger.

Satellite images taken by NASA Worldview and seen by Reuters showed the two fires had extended far into the exclusion zone.

The fires, which follow unusually dry weather, began on April 3 in the western part of the exclusion zone and spread to nearby forests.

Police say they have identified a 27-year old local resident who they accuse of deliberately starting the blaze.

It remains unclear if the person, who has reportedly confessed to starting a number of fires “for fun,” is partly or fully responsible. (Reuters)

(Production: Sergiy Karazy, Dmitriy Turlyun, Margaryta Chornokondratenko)

Ukraine dusts off Soviet-era ventilator designs to help fight coronavirus

UNTV News   •   March 30, 2020

Ukraine is dusting off Soviet-era ventilator designs that lay forgotten in a mothballed military factory for years in a bid to ramp up domestic production of equipment that could help in the fight against the coronavirus.

In response to an urgent appeal by hospitals to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for ventilators, some of the country’s wealthiest men chipped in to buy machines from abroad.

But representatives of state defense conglomerate Ukroboronprom, which runs the state-run Burevisnyk plant in Kiev, are leading an initiative for Ukraine to boost domestic output based on technology developed there long ago.

Deputy Director General of Ukroboronprom, Mustafa Nayyem, told Reuters that a computer with the relevant technical information had disappeared and the engineers that designed the ventilators were retired or dead.

Eventually, officials tracked down a man who knew where printouts for the designs were kept in the factory on yellowing paper. He was working in a local supermarket.

The plant is in no fit state to restart production, so Ukroboronprom will share the technology with interested private companies and has offered to help certify a new product quickly and provide production facilities, Nayyem said.

“We will give everyone access to this documentation because we understand that the crisis is now,” Nayyem said.

Some 20 years ago around 6,000 people worked at the Burevisnyk factory, producing hardware including radar systems for submarines. It also had a sideline making ventilators once used to treat Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan.

Falling demand since the end of the Soviet Union and a lack of state funding has pushed the plant into bankruptcy.

A handful of employees remain, including its acting director and security guards. The power and heating were cut off five years ago. The plaster on the walls is cracked and old machinery lies covered in dust.

Its last big government order for ventilators came in 2008, the plant’s Acting Director Vitaly Khodzitsky told Reuters. The plant used a bank loan to produce them, but the government money did not arrive and the plant never recouped its costs.

For a population of about 40 million people, Deputy Health Minister Viktor Lyashko said there were about 1,117 ventilators ready for coronavirus patients.

Governments around the world are scrambling to procure more of the breathing devices that can blow air and oxygen into the lungs. They are crucial for the care of people with lung failure, which can be one of the complications suffered by patients with severe COVID-19, the disease coronavirus causes.

The number of coronavirus cases has reached 480 in Ukraine, with eleven deaths. The country is one of Europe’s poorest and health spending per capita is a fraction of its western peers. (Reuters)

(Production: Sergiy Karazy, Margaryta Chornokondratenko, Natalia Zinets)

Fearing infection, residents protest against coronavirus evacuees landing in Ukraine

UNTV News   •   February 20, 2020

Residents in central Ukraine protested the arrival of a plane carrying evacuees from China’s Hubei province on Thursday (February 20), fearing they could be infected with the coronavirus despite authorities insisting there was no danger.

Protesters from the village of Novi Sanzhary blocked the road leading to a sanatorium where the evacuees are due to be held in quarantine for at least two weeks to make sure they were not carrying the virus.

Hundreds of police were dispatched to keep order.

The protest prompted President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to issue a statement reassuring Ukrainians that there was no danger, that the authorities had done everything possible to make sure the virus would not spread to Ukraine.

“But there is another danger that I would like to mention. The danger of forgetting that we are all human and we are all Ukrainian,” he said.

“Attempts to block routes, block hospitals, not allow Ukrainian citizens into Ukraine – this does not show the best side of our character. Especially when you consider that most passengers are people under 30 years of age. For many of us, they are almost like children.”

In addition to 45 Ukrainians, there were 27 citizens of Argentina on the plane that landed in Ukraine on Thursday, as well as citizens from the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Kazakhstan, Costa Rica, and other countries.

The Ukrainian authorities say all passengers on board had been screened twice for the virus before being allowed to fly, but that was not enough to quell the protesters.

Ukraine has no confirmed cases of the virus.

China reported a drop in new cases in the province at the heart of the coronavirus outbreak on Thursday, though the death toll so far at over 2,000 has made it one of the biggest global health emergencies in recent decades.

(Production: Vitality Hnidyy, Margaryta Chornokondratenko)

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