24 February 2023
One year on from the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, through the toxic Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, the intensifying nuclear threat is putting the world on the precipice of a ‘humanitarian Armageddon’. This is according to Adi Roche of Chernobyl Children International (CCI), who has been pioneering the humanitarian response to the region since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Roche’s comments come as the situation at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, Zaporizhzhia, remains increasingly volatile and unpredictable, as it is an active combat zone. The plant, which was the second to be occupied after Chernobyl, has had a machine-gun placed on the roof of one of the reactors earlier this week and 600 extra Russian soldiers placed there, adding to the already existing occupying forces there.
“From the moment we woke on to the news that Russian troops trundled through the world most toxic, most radioactive environment, we knew that the takeover of the Chernobyl site put the world on a precipice. With this weaponising of Nuclear Power, we cannot stress enough the risk that Chernobyl and now Zaporizhzhia poses.”
Since the beginning of the war and the invasion of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in February 2022, CCI have been advocating for all nuclear facilities be deemed a ‘No War Zone’ and for World Leaders to invoke the Hague Convention which defines any attack on a nuclear facility to be a ‘war crime’. The UN Nuclear Watchdog, IAEA, has been unable to secure any agreement from both Ukraine and Russia to date and this week confirmed its inability to rotate staff at Zaporizhzhia as a result of military action.
CCI had the infrastructure to immediately respond in the Chernobyl regions affected by the war, nimbly and quickly. The charity were not only able to continue programmes, but also expanded them, while targeting areas of unique need in Ukraine. This included moving their life-saving Cardiac programme cross country from East to West and supporting mental health of child victims of war crimes in the Chernobyl zone, as they had experience in mitigating child trauma already.
“The pen is mightier than the sword. So today let us put pen to paper and rewrite the narrative of this war to one of peace. Let us use our voices to sing a song of peace and justice, and show that we are strongest when we stand together. Let us be ambitious for peace! Otherwise, we sleepwalk humanity into a wider war and potential humanitarian Armageddon with our eyes not shut, but wide open. If we remain silent…we are playing with a loaded gun.” Roche continued.
In speaking about the war anniversary, Roche also paid tribute to the generous and caring response to refugees of the war by the people of Ireland;
“The Irish people have shown the love and generosity in their hearts over the past year, by wrapping their arms lovingly around the people of Ukraine.”
In January, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have moved the ‘Doomsday Clock’ to 90 seconds to Midnight, the closest it has ever been since 1945, citing war in Ukraine and the nuclear threat (posed by Zaporizhzhia) as a key reason why humanity is in a time of ‘unprecedented danger’. Founded by Albert Einstein and University of Chicago scientists who developed the first atomic weapons, the Clock is a universally recognised indicator of the world’s profound vulnerability to nuclear weapons, climate change and disruptive technologies. The closer to midnight the Clock is set, the greater the existential danger.