The two heads of state attended a service at the St Elijah Church in Chernobyl commemorating the victims of the 1986 accident at the nuclear power plant. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia held the Easter service.
Later the presidents of Russia and Ukraine took part in the ceremony of laying the first stone of the future memorial to the liquidators of the Chernobyl disaster. The monument will be erected by December 14, when Ukraine marks the Chernobyl Accident Liquidators Day.
In addition, Dmitry Medvedev and Viktor Yanukovych visited a memorial centre, where they viewed an interactive exhibition devoted to the heroic liquidators of one of the largest man-made disasters of the 20th century.
The two leaders also laid flowers at the monument in memory of the first victims of the Chernobyl disaster, which is located directly on the accident’s site in front of the plant. The memorial is a complex of red granite slabs engraved with the names of 28 liquidators who died during the summer of 1986. Dmitry Medvedev and Viktor Yanukovych paid a tribute to the victims with a minute of silence.
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Speeches at ceremony to commemorate Chernobyl disaster victims
President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych: Mr President,
Your Holiness, Your Beatitude,
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are marking a tragic date today: the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. We are remembering it together with Russia, our friend and neighbour. I am grateful to President Medvedev for joining us to share our grief.
The relief workers – Ukrainians, Russians and Belarusians – in charge of the operation following the explosion at the fourth power unit 25 years ago were not divided by state borders. They were just people who fought the disaster together.
Twenty-five years have passed and we have become fully aware that man-made disasters and nuclear accidents have enormous consequences for the people living in the areas where they take place. Today the whole world has realised that such disasters have no borders: Fukushima-1 is a tragic example of this. The whole world understands now that no state can cope with such a disaster alone.
We are very grateful to all countries that took part in a conference devoted to the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl. We are grateful to Mr Medvedev for Russia’s decision to make a considerable contribution, 45 million euros, to finance the Shelter project.
I know that people who lived in the areas affected by the radioactive fallout continue to suffer to this day. Today we are doing everything we can to make their lives easier. I know that this disaster has forced many people to think in new ways and to combine their efforts in helping others in distress.
I want to emphasise once again that the cherished memory of those relief workers who participated in the clear-up operation following the Chernobyl disaster will live for generations. It will live in the grateful memory of our nations.
On this occasion we must think once again about safe operation of nuclear facilities, nuclear power stations, realising that it depends on us how safe they will be. I think the decision made at this conference to establish a research centre here in Chernobyl to prevent nuclear accidents and other man-made disasters will contribute to a future global scientific and practical framework that will serve the whole world and all of humanity.
I would like to say once again that we pay tribute to the memory of those who saved us and saved humanity. We bow our heads to them.
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr President,
Your Holiness, Your Beatitude,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It was probably a warm day just like today 25 years ago. The fact that today we are remembering together one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century shows how much was done to help a huge number of people to survive.
Mr Yanukovych was absolutely correct when he said just now that an enormous number of people – citizens of Ukraine, the Russian Federation and other republics – carried out hugely difficult and very necessary work to clear-up the aftermath of the accident. Unfortunately, many of those who took part in the operation lost their lives while saving others: those who continue to live today in our countries.
The accident’s consequences could have been extraordinary. They were huge in any case, but if it were not for the efforts of the liquidators, fire-fighters, rescue workers and doctors, those consequences would have been global. We must bear this in mind, especially since humanity is continuing to evolve. We have no alternative energy sources that could replace nuclear power. In fact, we probably don’t need them. The main thing is that we all realise the enormous power we are dealing with and make sure that our technological solutions meet the challenges presented by nuclear energy.
”Carried out hugely difficult and very necessary work to clear-up the aftermath of the accident. Unfortunately, many of those who took part in the operation lost their lives while saving others: those who continue to live today in our countries.“
Since then, we have implemented a wide variety of measures, learned some very difficult lessons and adopted vitally important standards. But recent tragedies, especially the tragedy in Japan, the disaster at the Fukushima-1station shows that we must make extra efforts to ensure that nuclear power remains peaceful and addresses the major problem it is intended to solve. That is why we must join our efforts to prepare a new regulatory framework that will operate across the planet.
Today I sent proposals to leaders of the largest states, our friends and partners in the Commonwealth of Independent States, including Ukraine, of course, aimed at ensuring the positive development of nuclear energy worldwide, while at the same time preventing global catastrophic consequences. It seems there is a need to think about drafting new international conventions, and we must do it. It is our duty to the memory of those who were the first to come to the rescue of all of humanity 25 years ago.
It is impossible not to feel emotion here. It seems like there is perfect calm in the air. The spring weather is beautiful. At the same time every detail, every line of the fourth power unit has great significance for humanity. I look at these shapes, familiar from a large number of photographs and newsreels, and I understand how much human effort went into creating this station first and then preserving it. Chernobyl station employees are still keeping watch for all our sakes. Thank you for this, thank you from the Russian people and from people across the globe. Today we bow our heads in memory of those who achieved a real feat at the hardest time.
There is one more thing we must mention today. We must be honest in the face of such threats. It is a duty of every state to tell people the truth. We must admit that the state did not always behave with integrity. For such tragedies never to be repeated we must all be honest, we must provide absolutely accurate information about what is going on, wherever the events are taking place and whatever they might be. This is also one of the lessons Chernobyl has taught us.
We must do everything we can to help the liquidators, fire-fighters and labour veterans who continue to work or are receiving medical treatment.
Yesterday in the Kremlin, I presented state decorations to the people of our country and I promised to convey to you their warmest greetings, their wishes of good health and words of solidarity and sympathy on this very special day for us all.
We will always remember those who gave their lives and health to save people. Eternal memory to the heroes who laid their heads here. We bow our heads to them.