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By Oleg Vernik, President of the Independent Union of Ukraine “Zahist Pracі” 
(“Labor Protection”)

For two weeks, a true ecological tragedy unfolded in Ukraine with massive 
forest fires in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. The fires swept huge wooded areas 
and closely surrounded the nuclear power plant that was destroyed in 1986. The 
riskiest thing now is a large deposit of radioactive waste, which will 
represent a danger not only for our country, but also for the whole of Europe, 
if the fires reach it .

For two weeks, nationally mobilized fire brigades fought the fire desperately, 
but only the rain and snow that fell on April 14 were able to stop it. On that 
same date, in the evening, President Volodímir Zelensky spoke on television, 
reported on the end of the incident and thanked the weather for the great help 
in extinguishing the fire. But on April 15, the fire resumed and more than 500 
firefighters are still fighting it heroically.

The Chernobyl fire revealed all the direct failures and crimes of Ukraine’s 
capitalist authorities. First, it must be taken into account that the real 
causes of these fires are associated with illegal deforestation in the 
exclusion zone: forests are radioactive and their use is strictly prohibited. 
However, several Ukrainian companies involved in the timber trade have 
indiscriminately cut down the trees and used them in construction, including 
using false documents to export radioactive wood to countries of the European 
Union as firewood or building material. In order to avoid getting caught for 
deforesting illegally, these “businessmen” cover up their crimes year after 
year with large fires that hide their extreme action under water.

Of course, there is a strong corruption actively involved here that has been 
neutralizing the oversight of police and prosecutors for many years. This 
winter there was practically no snow, the dryness in the forests became very 
dangerous and facilitated the spread of fires, but this did not stop the 
Ukrainian bourgeoisie of the forest industry. The arson caused a terrible 
ecological disaster, and to think about what might happen in the near future is 

Second, firefighters do not have adequate technical equipment to deal with the 
fire. Ukraine lacks extinction helicopters. The entrances to the affected areas 
do not even have roads, so water pumping vehicles often cannot enter. The 
fireproof clothing is very old, it does not resist high temperatures. Fire 
trucks are very old, some no longer have job utility and should have been 
scrapped long ago. Even so, they continue in activity, since there is no budget 
in the most corrupt and poorest country in Europe to buy new, more modern 
units. But the authorities always have money to raise the salaries of high 
officials and buy expensive foreign cars.

The fire in the vicinity of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the evident 
inability of the Ukrainian bourgeois government to cope with the Coronavirus 
pandemic, place the task of socialist transformation before the Ukrainian 
people. The peripheral model of Ukrainian capitalism leads to a further 
aggravation of the situation, to the total impoverishment of the workers and to 
the strengthening of foreign governance. Russia’s military aggression against 
Ukraine was compounded by the financial dictates of the International Monetary 
Fund. A growing number of Ukrainian workers, youth and union activists 
understand the need for a decisive rejection of capitalism. The disaster caused 
by the fires, with the threat over Chernobyl, has strengthened and confirmed 
this understanding, as well as our determination.
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