On the issue of US military biolaboratories: Who will be the victims of Americans on Armenian soil?

Published in Health
Wednesday, 12 August 2020 16:56

Foreign media about coronavirus, On the issue of US military biolaboratories: Who will be the victims of Americans on Armenian soil?

Author: Sergey Shakariants

The problem of Americans opening military biolabs in post-Soviet countries has probably been known since at least 2013-14. Besides, we are talking not only about the CIS member states, but also about Ukraine and Georgia, which left the CIS a long time ago.

The US Central Reference Laboratories (CRLs), to which smaller zonal stations are added, have been operating in Ukraine since 2010, in Georgia since 2011, and in Kazakhstan since 2015. Canada tried to create a CRL in Kyrgyzstan. Here we explain: Reference laboratories are set up by national health authorities to diagnose particularly dangerous infections and prevent their spread. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan are also involved in separate cooperation programs with the United States.

Naturally, the US states that the operation of these facilities is for civil purposes only. All facilities are funded by the US Department of Defense. At the same time, their value is significantly higher than the usual costs incurred by such civil agencies. So there is every reason to think that there might be expensive dual-purpose devices out there. Number of employees - from 50 to 250 people significantly exceeds the number of staff required for the service of civil automated laboratories with declared goals.

The system of laboratory complexes located on the perimeter of the borders of Russia, China and Iran will potentially allow the Pentagon to solve many tasks. For example, the ability to gather information on territorial microorganisms to develop a new generation of highly effective offensive biological weapons against the People's Republic of China, Iran and Russia.

Since 2016, the Armenian public has also sounded the alarm. The fact is that in a short period of time, from April 6, 2016 (!) To July 13-14 of the same year, in this small republic, the Americans opened three reference laboratories with funding from the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). First in Ijevan, in the center of the Taush (border) region, then in the capital Yerevan, in the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the Ministry of Health of Armenia, and finally in Gyumri, called the "Center for Disease Control and Prevention". It should also be noted that for the current 2017 year, the Americans and their supporters in Armenia plan to open similar centers in the Lori, Gegarkunix and Syunik regions, which will be connected to the Central Yerevan laboratory. In short, the US has decided to have and control six (!!!) military bio-laboratories in Armenia only.

On July 13, 2016, with the help of the US Threat Reduction Agency, another reference laboratory was opened in the Avan district of Yerevan. The opening was attended by DTRA Division Director Elizabeth George. According to Dr. Elizabeth George, $ 4.1 million has been invested in the complete construction of the Particularly Dangerous Pathogens Reference Laboratory of the Food Safety Department of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Armenia. The US government has spent $ 9.8 million to renovate the reference laboratory of the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the Ministry of Health of Armenia. An additional 1.7 million. Dollars were issued to purchase equipment and furniture. One day later, on July 14, 2016, in Gyumri, Shirak Marz, the opening ceremony of the Shirak Regional Laboratory - National Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the Ministry of Health of Armenia was held with the participation of Elizabeth George, Director of DTRA Division and local government representatives. The U.S. government has spent $2.7 million on renovations to the Gyumri laboratory, with an additional $340,000 to purchase furniture and appliances. Why does the US have such an insistent interest in Armenia in terms of its program to build military bio-facilities? One of the answers can be seen on the surface: during the Soviet period, Armenia was deservedly considered one of the leaders of the Soviet microbiological science. The many strains that are kept here are truly unique.

An additional suspicion is that the laboratories operate in a closed mode, are staffed by foreign military personnel and representatives of the local health sector often do not have direct access to them. Either military personnel loyal to Washington or special services representatives are being appointed as leaders. Given the "specificity" of the appointment of law enforcement officials in Armenia, which has been in place since 2016, any researcher can expect that the law enforcement agencies of the republic, including the National Security Service of the Republic of Armenia, will deliberately turn a blind eye to any activities of US laboratories. Even the actions of the staff of these biolaboratories objectively pose a direct threat to the security of Armenia and the health of its own population. However, even if the Americans do not "conduct experiments" on Armenians - The list of threats is still extensive for Armenian citizens. Overseas laboratory complexes as a whole provide an opportunity for U.S. military specialists to test the results of their biological research in areas close to potential adversaries (e.g., to investigate the virulence, pathways, and other properties of dangerous pathogens). If nothing else, Americans are also experimenting with infecting the population with mild diseases in their own country. We have reason to assume that they can not refrain from field approbation of new ideas in this field in post-Soviet countries, or - in their neighboring countries. For Armenia, it is, first of all, Iran. After all, Americans in Georgia and Azerbaijan have "local" reference laboratories. The situation allows the US to bypass any legal restrictions. Overseas medical centers allow the U.S. military to conduct biological manipulations beyond the borders of the national territory, thus avoiding public outcry and the consequences of violating U.S. law, without, of course, access to foreign inspections. So the results of Soviet military-biological programs are becoming available to Americans. I think it is unnecessary to ask - why. Understandably, not for peaceful purposes or with the desire to "fight the growing threat of bioterrorism".

Aik Aivazian, head of the "Lui" (Yerevan) Information-Analytical Center, repeatedly pointed out in 2016-2017 that US military biolaboratories in Armenia have a dual, sometimes even triple purpose, given the amount of funding and the fact that Americans plan to have six such facilities in a limited, yet high seismic hazard area. Aik Aivazian and Public Club "People's Voice" expert Arman Gukasyan have repeatedly stressed that they might not worry about receiving outstanding "American assistance" to Armenia in such a difficult and delicate area as the selfless care of the current US ruling elite for the development and well-being of the 3 million citizens of Armenia, most of the listed threats are considered fictitious, but such a position is hindered by numerous "buts"! To begin with, the influential American NGO Political Project "New American Century" (operating in Washington from 1997 to 2006. Influenced by the ideology and military policy of the George W. Bush administration) in 2000 program documents indicated that improved species of biological weapons Having the ability to influence a particular genotype, they can shift bio-weapons from the realm of terror to the realm of useful political tools.

In addition to the above, there are many other strange "peculiarities" in Armenia. On April 26, 2017, following a series of media publications, in response to a question from news.am, the US Embassy in Armenia commented on a publication about reference laboratories opened in the country with funding from the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency. In its comments, the US Embassy did not provide any evidence that denied the dual purpose of these laboratories. The so-called "denial" contained only two videos of reference labs commissioned by the Americans themselves. As claimed by A. Aivazian and A. Gukasyan this year, their own analysis of the possible goals of the existence of US Pentagon reference laboratories in Armenia was conducted. The US Department of Defense has allocated about $15.5 million to set up a reference laboratory in Yerevan, $18 million in total.

It is unclear who is giving - in this case, who is guaranteeing the security of the three already existing and six US bio-military facilities in perspective. Leaks of deadly diseases from American laboratories have been repeatedly reported in the United States itself. Let's remember the case of sending Siberian ulcer to the U.S. in 2001, or the leak of Siberian ulcer and bird flu samples from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (DiseaseControlandPrevention, CDC). Who will the US blame if all of a sudden, dangerous pathogens "accidentally" leak from Armenian laboratories? The guard, the lab worker who "forgot" to close the tube tightly or someone else?

All this is not exaggerated in the slightest - no one should be accused of any kind of prejudice against its goals in the field of biolaboratories in the territory of the US and the former USSR. The generosity which the US sponsors biolabs in Armenia with is tense - and this is still mentioned very lightly. Of course, representatives of the US Embassy, as well as the above-mentioned Armenian and US agencies, have repeatedly stated that the activities of the laboratories "have nothing to do with geopolitical problems". As stated by the representatives of the Ministry of Health at the end of last year, Armenia is located in a region where "there is a high migration and a high probability that diseases will enter the republic". In accordance with its international obligations, Armenia must detect and respond to these threats in a timely manner, stopping their spread inside and outside the country. Laboratories are of a research nature and are committed to resolving this issue. The Armenian side also notes that "the laboratory will not have a dual purpose because the country has committed itself to reducing the risks of biological weapons proliferation". Similar comments were made by the US Embassy in Yerevan in late April. He said that they are proud of cooperating with the Government of Armenia and providing assistance to the citizens of the country, guaranteeing the health of agricultural animals, financing the repair and construction of modern laboratories. This strengthens the government's ability to publicly monitor potential health threats to humans and farm animals and to prevent dangerous disease epidemics.

But why are there no serious reactions - neither in Armenia nor in other republics? The fact is that the assessments of experts on the danger of these facilities are still quite measured, which they explain by the lack of complete information. According to Babkena Pipoyan (Yerevan), the head of the non-governmental organization "Informed and Protected User", in theory, the existence of reference laboratories on the territory of Armenia may lead to various problems and dangers. "We understand that the laboratory is not a hidden object. And the risks, if any, are known to the special services, the Armenian government and Russia, as a strategic partner of Armenia. Of course, Russia does not like the establishment of laboratories by the United States in Armenia, but I think the Armenian side made appropriate arguments when discussing the issue with its Russian colleagues", Pipoyan said. But he seems to be ignoring the fact that the construction of reference laboratories involves the transfer of all those strains stored in the collection of viruses to American side. All of these laboratories are operated solely by the U.S. Department of Defense. The construction of laboratories as part of biohazard management projects will enable the United States to fully control the biological condition of both the relevant post-Soviet countries and the territories of its transboundary neighbors. Every virologist knows the rule: there is only one step from studying a bacterium to creating a bacteriological weapon. At the same time, US-created biolaboratories are out of the control of the governments of the countries in which they are located. Laboratories operate in closed mode. Laboratory staff, made up exclusively of Americans, have diplomatic immunity, and local civil health officials do not have direct access to these facilities. The number of laboratory workers ranges from 50 to 250, which is significantly more than the number of staff required to service automated civilian laboratories with declared purposes. To cite the Indonesian example of 2010, the expulsion of such an American biolaboratory is unfortunately an unfulfilled dream for ordinary citizens of Armenia, as the current government knows what is happening in the world, specifically around Armenia, Artsakh,but still in 2013-2017, the US The policy goes directly to aid. The Armenian government either does not really know or does not seem to have heard the statement of Jeffrey Silverman, a former adviser to Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia, in an interview with "Georgia and the World": Bypassing US Laboratories for the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological Weapons Creates order. "Lugar Laboratory is located next to the airport. It will not take long to load the bomb or transfer the viruses from there to other facilities," he said, referring to the functions and tasks of the Richard Lugar Center for Public Health Research in Georgia. I'll remind you that the Americans spent $300 million to create this laboratory. But a number of data from Armenia show that in recent years the government of the Republic has been supporting the United States in this, at least, strange activity. Year 2010 - Agreement with the Pentagon on cooperation in the field of technology for the production of biological weapons, the spread of pathogens and the prevention of testing, in the framework of the "Reduction of Biological Threats" program. The US Embassy in Armenia has established an Office to Support the Implementation of the Biological Threat Reduction Program. The company Black & Veatch has been involved in the implementation of DTRA programs since 2011, the CWEP program is operating. ISTC (USA) opened its branches in Yerevan, provided financial assistance for the material and technical support of several dozen projects.

In 2015, the Pentagon provided the Armenian Border Service with a device to control the circulation of weapons of mass destruction. The Armenian Ministries of Emergency Situations, Health and Agriculture have received the necessary special facilities from the US in case of a pandemic. The officials of these agencies were trained on American standards for the detection, diagnosis and prevention of dangerous infectious diseases of natural and man-made origin. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched its EpiInfo software at the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention of Armenia. What would you say, "Everything is fine, beautiful Marquise?" No and no. According to materials of press conference held by the Public Club "People's Voice" in mid-June 2017 in Yerevan, "after the statement of the representative of the US Embassy, where he said that the activities of the given laboratories are open to the general public, the members of the public club decided to visit the mentioned laboratories and get acquainted with their activities on the spot. Activists wondered why the Pentagon funded the laboratory, why there was no agreement between the Armenian and US military agencies, why the laboratories were located in densely populated areas, and next to kindergartens and squares? Unfortunately, as experts say, the visit to the laboratory's main office did not answer any of the questions raised, which further aggravates the suspicion". As it turns out, the experts of "People's Voice" did not even enter the laboratories - they were limited to admission to the technical office.

This confirmed that the Americans are not going to report to anyone in Armenia on what US citizens are doing in the military biolaboratories in Yerevan, Gyumri and Ijevan. As the head of "People's Voice" A. Gukasyan states that he's planning to send a letter to the Organization US Ambassador R. Mills containing "specific questions and requests". "Studying the experience of neighboring Georgia, we see that money was spent on the construction of similar laboratories, which is several times more than the amount needed to finance such civil facilities." - Says the representative of the club Tsovinar Kostanian. In his view, you can't doubt this fact, because there is a danger that pathogens stored in these laboratories may in the future be used to create biological weapons that will be developed based on the genotype and biological characteristics of a given nation or region. "It is inadmissible for such important facilities to be under the control and expense of a foreign state. The Pentagon has already spent $18 million on setting up similar laboratories in Armenia. We are sure that if the laboratories are funded by the military, the set tasks will be completely military", he said. The Pentagon has spent more than $1 billion in recent years building 400 biolabs around the world. As a result of cooperation with the US, the less affluent countries of the former USSR, instead of actually preventing the spread of dangerous viruses, have adopted closed agencies in their territories that are not accountable to the government. Given the above, we have every reason to believe that US military-biological activity in the Collective Security Treaty Organization, CIS countries and other post-Soviet space countries, including Armenia, poses a threat to their national interests and the health and safety of the population. Not to mention that this threat will increase if the US decides to launch a bio-military strike on Russia, China and Iran from their territory.The reaction of these countries cannot be apriori predictable. And if so, joint precautionary measures are needed.

Printed from the newspaper "Erkramas": http//yerkramas.org

The United States has acknowledged the existence of secret biological laboratories in Ukraine

Published in Health
Wednesday, 12 August 2020 16:44

Foreign media about coronavirus, The United States has acknowledged the existence of secret biological laboratories in Ukraine

Maxim Makarichev

The US Embassy in Ukraine has officially acknowledged for the first time the existence of American biological laboratories in the country that are conducting tests on viruses. Such was the reaction of diplomats to the statement of MPs Renat Kuzmin and Viktor Medvedchuk of the Verkhovna Rada "Opposition Platform for Life" on April 14. The lawmakers sent a request to Vladimir Zelensky to confirm the deployment of at least 15 American biological laboratories in Ukraine, which are supervised by the US Department of Defense, according to the publication "Country".

The three-page appeal included a request to justify the existence of such laboratories, which operate in complete isolation from the public and are controlled by the Pentagon.

In the appeal, the authors argue that during the work of American laboratories in Ukraine from time to time there were outbreaks of unknown and various diseases that caused lethal consequences. According to the deputies of the Verkhovna Rada, virus strains were periodically leaked from laboratories at that time for one reason or another.

What specific lethal consequences are we talking about? The document states that as early as 11 years ago, a virus of unknown origin appeared in Ternopil, causing hemorrhagic pneumonia: 450 Ukrainians died. Cholera broke out in Ukraine in 2011 - 33 people died. In 2014, 800 Ukrainians became infected with cholera. In January 2016, 20 soldiers died of the flu-like virus in Kharkov, and 200 people were taken to hospital. Two months later, 364 fatalities were reported in the country. According to MPs, the cause of all deaths was swine flu with the same flu strain that caused the 2009 global pandemic.

The appeal states that the laboratory began operations in August 2005, during Yushchenko's presidency, was discontinued during Yanukovych's term, and resumed during Poroshenko's presidency. The idea of the need to activate the activities of such laboratories on the territory of Ukraine was actively lobbied by the Minister of Health of Ukraine in 2016-2019 Uliana Suprun. Deputies also named a completely astronomical sum - $ 2.1 billion, which was allocated by Washington for "biological experiments" around the world. This amount was spent on the accounts of the American "Threat Reduction Agency", which in turn allocates funds for the project in Ukraine.

This activity was also joined by the "Scientific-Technical Center in Ukraine" - an international scientific-industrial association established in 1993. The center is funded by the US government and its staff have diplomatic immunity, which is considered an exception in the practice of international law. "This organization is financing projects to create weapons of mass destruction," wrote members of the Verkhovna Rada. In addition to Ukraine and the United States, the organization includes the European Union, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Uzbekistan.

The Zelensky administration ignored this demand, and the Americans preferred to attend: they tried to convince the Ukrainian public that the work of the laboratory was carried out solely for scientific purposes and was of a peaceful nature. At the same time, the embassy did not forget to start searching for the "Moscow hand" again and said that the information in the appeal was "Russian disinformation".

"Our joint efforts are helping to ensure that dangerous pathogens do not fall into foreign hands. We are proud to work with the Ministry of Health, the State Food Safety and Consumer Protection Service of Ukraine, the National Academy of Agrarian Sciences and the Ministry of Defense," the US diplomats said. Not a word is said that the project is under the full patronage of the Pentagon. As "Country" notes, the United States has more than 400 bacteriological laboratories worldwide. 15 of them are in Ukraine. Three are located in Lviv and near Kiev, the rest in Odessa, Vinnytsia, Uzhgorod, Kherson, Ternopil, as well as in the Kiev-controlled areas directly near Crimea and Lugansk. Some of them received between $ 1 million and $ 2 million for the tests. Journalists of the edition managed to gain access to the archives of the State Department website and find out the details of the agreement reached between Ukraine and the United States, which was signed on August 29, 2005. The agreement was signed by the US Department of Defense and the Ministry of Health of Ukraine. Under the agreement, Kiev undertook to send copies of dangerous pathogens to the Pentagon, which would be obtained as a result of research in Ukrainian laboratories. At the same time, the Ukrainian side should have kept the secret regime and in no case disclosed its activities, did not answer any questions from politicians and the public.

Finally, labs were required to "minimize the number of people working with restricted access information." According to Odessa journalist Yuri Tkachev, these studies can be called dual-purpose studies: on the one hand, they are really important in terms of assessing the risk of spreading this or that disease and developing recommendations to combat it. "On the other hand, the results of the research may be used to create bacteriological weapons for use in this or that region," Tkachev said.

We would like to remind you that in 2018, the former Minister of State Security of Georgia Igor Giorgadze presented a series of documentary materials on the activities of the American Lugar Laboratory in Georgia, which gained scandalous popularity, at a press conference in Moscow. The center was named in honor of the famous Russophobe, Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, who died last year. Giorgadze noted that the facility was fully funded by the United States, and Georgia's property rights were only a cover. This secret unit was supervised by the Pentagon with the support of the then President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili.  The laboratory was located near the Georgian settlement of Alekseevka near Tbilisi, ostensibly to fight the hepatitis C epidemic in those areas. Rumors of experiments on humans and mysterious deaths of locals in the American laboratory have been circulating since 2010. Giorgadze presented to the public a series of confidential materials on the activities of the laboratory, which confirm the "unreasonable mortality" of the local population. The population was allegedly injected with drugs - "Harvol" and "Sovaldi", which were produced by the American company "Gileod". Ex-minister sources managed to obtain documents confirming the deaths of 181 people during the vaccine test. However, 20 of the dead were buried without any dissection and conclusion of forensic medical experts. Igor Kirilov, the commander of the Army of the Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection Forces of the Russian Federation, said at the time that the center had tested a toxic chemical drug for the local population in the treatment of hepatitis C. Giorgadze addressed President Trump, a 108 Western human rights and humanitarian organization. No response was received from any of the instances.

Printed from the website: https://rg.ru/2020/04/24/ssha-priznali-nalichie-na-ukraine-sekretnyh-biologicheskih-laboratorij.html

Biological weapons near the Russian border

Published in Health
Wednesday, 12 August 2020 16:31

Foreign media about coronavirus, Biological weapons near the Russian border

Vladimir Ivanov


The Russian Federation is seriously concerned about the activities of biological laboratories in Georgia and Ukraine, where foreign military biologists, mainly representatives of the Pentagon, are conducting secret experiments. US-created facilities are located too close to our borders. Alexander Lukashevich, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation, shared this concern with the members of the OSCE Permanent Council on June 11.

Lukashevich drew the attention of the participants to the activities of the dual-purpose bio-epidemiological laboratories established by the United States in the OSCE area. In particular, he touched upon the military-biological activity of foreign specialists in Georgia, mainly at the base of the Lugar Center in the Alekseevka settlement near Tbilisi. As well as the activities of more than 10 similar facilities operating on the territory of Ukraine.

According to the Russian diplomat, the construction, financing and operation of these laboratories is carried out by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) of the US Department of Defense, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, The United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and several other Pentagon-affiliated medical organizations.

"Judging by the information leaked to the media, closed experiments are being conducted in Georgian and Ukrainian biolaboratories to fight infectious diseases using particularly dangerous pathogens, including those that cause the plague and hemorrhagic fever."

Particular attention is paid to the study of mutant forms, modification of viruses and enhancement of their contagiosity (transmission). Of concern are reports of suspicious drug experiments conducted by US military doctors on Georgian trials, as well as the collection of human biomass for some "research purposes," Lukashevich said. He said Moscow saw this as a failure by the United States to meet its commitments in biotechnology research and development as set out in the 1986 summary document of the Vienna Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). Until January 1, 1995, this was the name of the OSCE.

"Experiments conducted by foreign military biologists on Russia's borders are of legitimate concern to us, including in the context of the implementation of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. "Especially in the light of the fact that for two decades the United States has been blocking efforts to develop and adopt a protocol with a legally binding, effective verification mechanism for the Convention," he said.

He also said that instead of explaining the goals of U.S. military-biological activity in border states, Washington often referred only to the Pentagon's seemingly "highly humane cover-up." In practice, he persuades the Kremlin to trust the White House, as they say.

Some Ukrainian politicians are also concerned about the uncontrolled attempts of the transoceanic virus creators with shoulder straps.
The Ukrainian weekly socio-political magazine "Correspondent" revealed the secrets of American biolabs to its readers late last month.

The late May issue reported that the news agency "Українські новини" has published an official response to the Ministry of Health of Ukraine on the activities of bacteriological laboratories built or modernized in Ukraine under a contract with the US Department of Defense. The reply to the Ministry of Health states that "the terms of the contract provided assistance to Ukraine to prevent the spread of technology, pathogens and knowledge to" facilities "that may be used in the development of biological weapons."

But neither in the Soviet period, nor from the moment of the declaration of independence until the signing of the contract with the Pentagon, biological weapons were developed or tested. And lo and behold, America is offering assistance to facilities "that could be used to build biological weapons." According to the "correspondent", the Pentagon considers these facilities as manufacturers of biological weapons. It is simply impossible to draw any other conclusion. The only question is, according to the magazine, who actually produces such weapons - Kiev or Washington.

The edition notes that the US Department of Defense program, according to which biolaboratories were built or modernized in Ukraine, does not mention any similar structures of the country's military and none of the regional divisions of the Central Sanitary-Epidemiological Division of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. It also indicates that the United States refused to sign an international protocol in 2001 that would have recognized 33 microorganisms as potential agents of biological weapons, as State Department experts considered Article 37 in the document to be "inconsistent with US national security interests."

An official response from the Ministry of Health states that eight biological laboratories have been built under the auspices of the DTRA in the Vinnytsia, Dnepropetrovsk, Zakarpattia, Lviv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Ternopil regions, as well as in the Crimean Republican Laboratory Center. It is also mentioned that the program under which these institutions were built was closed in 2014. However, according to media reports, the program was renewed in 2016, according to a memorandum signed between the Ministry of European Integration of Ukraine and the American company Black & Veatch Special Projects Corp. It was also announced that the goal of the joint venture is to involve Ukrainian laboratories in a unified electronic integrated disease monitoring system. According to the press, the registration card of the project already contains information on 13 objects. It also states that the aim of the project is to stop the spread of pathogens for the development of biological weapons, as well as "to expand the national network of diagnostic laboratories that work on particularly dangerous infections."

In late May, members of the Verkhovna Rada from the Opposition Platform for Life (OPS) party, Viktor Medvedev and Renat Kuzmin filed a formal complaint with the UN Human Rights Council alleging illegal activities of US biolaboratories in Ukraine. Kuzmin also wrote about it on his Facebook page and posted the text of the document. "Apart from the betrayal of national interests, what else can be explained by the fact that the Ukrainian authorities are hiding information about the secret experiments carried out by US military biologists in Ukraine?" Why should this information be secret for the Ukrainian people? Why do American military biologists, sheltered by diplomatic immunity, allow us to do what is forbidden to them? "Why are the Ukrainian authorities refusing to investigate the many cases of bacteriological infection and death of the Ukrainian population in the areas where American bacteriological laboratories are located?" The Ukrainian MP wrote that the party "Opposition Platform - for Life" has not received answers to these questions from the Ukrainian authorities. He was therefore forced to formally apply to the UN.

This is not the first time MPs from the Opposition Platform for Life party have raised the issue of American laboratories. In mid-April, a question about the labs was sent to President Vladimir Zelensky. In particular, it demanded an explanation of the legal norms under which these organizations operate in Ukraine and how their work is regulated.

The main problem in the current situation is that the Ukrainian government has no tools to control the activities of these laboratories. The current government is not independent and is guided by the curators of the US Embassy. This explains the attempt of the party "Opposition Platform - for Life" to find support for the relevant investigation in the UN.

 

Georgian bio-secrets

In 2018, the world press published the results of the investigation of the Bulgarian journalist Diliana Gaitanjieva about the US military research program in different countries. He told readers about the Richard Lugar Public Health Center, which opened under the DTRA program in 2011 near Tbilisi International Airport.This third-degree biosecurity biolab is only available to U.S. specialists who have the right to work with classified information. According to official data, the center is engaged in research on biological hazards. Its specialists will study bioagents, viral diseases and collect biological samples for future experiments.

According to specialists, since 2014, when the laboratory was equipped with special equipment for breeding insects and the implementation of projects to collect, study and test for their level of infection, atypical cases of various diseases have been observed in Georgia.

Former Minister of State Security of Georgia Igor Giorgadze said at the end of 2018 that he had documents at his disposal that confirmed that dangerous experiments were being conducted at the research center. He also called on US President Donald Trump to investigate the activities of the laboratory. Georgia has called the allegations "absurd" and Moscow has said it is seeking US documents on the lab. On May 26, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation issued a comment stating that the Russian Federation expects an answer from Georgia regarding the entry of Russian specialists in the center of Lugar and expressed concern over the lack of information on the activities of the laboratory. Russia insists on "guaranteeing access to all the buildings of the laboratory," including those occupied by American specialists. Only in this way can a real review of the Centre's activities be provided and determine "the true direction of the work carried out by US military biologists near the Russian border."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia states that Lugar Laboratory belongs entirely to Georgia. "The Lugar Center with all its equipment is completely transferred to the ownership of the Government of Georgia, and from 2018 the Lugar Center and the laboratory network are fully funded by the Government of Georgia. "Structurally, the Lugar Center is a subset of the Centers for Disease Control and is part of the Georgian Ministry of Health," the statement said, noting that US specialists "do not have the ability to conduct any research independently."

Nevertheless, such statements need careful verification. Especially when it comes to such a sensitive threat to Russia's national security near its borders.

It should be noted that after the collapse of the USSR, US biolabs were also set up in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Moldova. The number of laboratories set up on the perimeter of the Russian border is growing every year. Only American specialists have access to them and the results of the research. Local scientists and technicians are prohibited from entering buildings where particularly important and secret research is conducted.

Printed with abbreviations from the website: nvo.ng.ru
Permanent address of the article
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Armenia, Ukraine and South Korea protest against the existence of bio laboratories

Published in World
Monday, 27 July 2020 14:18

The global coronavirus pandemic has not only paralyzed economic activity around the world, but has also revealed a large number of socio-political problems in many countries. Political scandals related to the existence of US military bio laboratories have erupted because of coronavirus in countries such as Armenia, Ukraine and South Korea. Recent protests in Armenia and Ukraine have again called for the closure of US military bio laboratories operating in the country. In their demands, the speakers expressed concern that the new US testing viruses in these laboratories posed a deadly threat to both the country's population and the environment. That's why the protesters demanded the immediate closure of American bio laboratories.

Russian researcher Victoria Popova wrote in her article "American Bio-Laboratories in Armenia: Wonders of Multi-Vectorism" as early as 2017 that the entire network operates in Armenia - 12 bio-laboratories created or modernized with US military money under its Biological Threat Reduction Program (BTRP). In turn, it is part of the US Joint Program on Cooperative Biological Engagement Program (CBEP). Three of them are in Yerevan: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State Food Service, and the Infectious Diseases Clinical Hospital "Nork". There are regional laboratories at the black plague prevention stations in Ijevan, Gyumri, Martuni, Sisian, Artashat, Vanadzor and other places. The scandal erupted in Armenia after 14 employees of the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC) and the country's Ministry of Health became infected with the coronavirus. The party "Armenian Eagles - United Armenia" recently demanded the liquidation of all US sub-bio laboratories in the country within two months from Prime Minister N. Pashinian. A scandal is occurring in Ukraine over the activities of 11 American bio laboratories in the country. A few years ago, the media reported that American bio laboratories had been set up in Ukraine, but this information failed to gain attention. This time, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the opposition demanded that the government explain what is happening on the secret facilities.

Two lead deputies of the "Opposition Platform for Life" - Viktor Medvechuk and Renat Kuzmin (Deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine in the past), have publicly called on the Ukrainian authorities to provide information on the activities of US bio laboratories.

"Independent Military Review" reviewer Vladimir Ivanov writes that after the collapse of the USSR, US bio laboratories were also set up in CIS countries such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Moldova and others. Only American specialists have access to them and the results of their research. Local scientists and technical staff are not allowed to enter the areas where the most important and secret surveys are conducted.

Foreign media has reported on the escalation of inter-Korean relations these days. One reason for this is the existence of American bio laboratories in South Korea. North Korea has once again requested the closure of US military bio laboratories in South Korea. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, for several years has accused United States of preparing the start of a biochemical war. As early as 2018, according to "RIA Novosti", the Democratic People's Republic of Korea accused the United States of preparing for a biochemical war on the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang's suspicions were linked to a US-South Korean program to set up a network of military biochemical laboratories, which also researches poisonous substances. It should be noted that with the spread of the coronavirus epidemic in South Korea, the protest of citizens has intensified due to the presence of American biochemical laboratories in the country. Protestants have demanded the closure of American biochemical laboratories in South Korea because they pose a major threat to both the country's population and South Korea's ecological security. South Koreans still remember well how the U.S. admitted in 2015 that it mistakenly sent live Anthrax to private laboratories in South Korea. The head of the Pentagon, Ashton Carter, personally apologized to the South Korean Minister of Defense, Han Min-Goo, for this.

Badri Nachkebia, Political scientist,

Doctor of History

Expert-consultant of several leading universities abroad

 

(Information is prepared based on internet materials)

Unprepared Ukraine must learn from Chornobyl fires

Published in World
Tuesday, 19 May 2020 13:03
As war-torn and pandemic-hit Ukraine entered April 2020, the last thing the country needed was more drama. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened.

For much of the month, the coronavirus crisis and the ongoing conflict with Russia were both temporarily overshadowed by a spate of forest fires in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone that generated lurid international headlines and plunged Kyiv into apocalyptic gloom. These blazes exposed Ukraine’s unpreparedness for such emergencies and served as a grim warning of what may lie ahead during the long summer months in a country parched by an abnormally warm winter season that saw record high temperatures and virtually no snow.

When news of forest fires in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone first started to emerge in the days following April 4, it took more than a week for it to become a hot topic on Ukrainian social media (no pun intended). With most Ukrainians already stuck at home in the fourth week of coronavirus quarantine, images began spreading of woodland blazes along with satellite maps indicating proximity to the infamous atomic energy plant. For many in nearby Kyiv, the fires brought back memories of the 1986 nuclear disaster and sparked fears of a new atomic threat as acres of radioactive woodland went up in flames.

When the wind changed direction and began blowing directly towards Kyiv, a dense and ominous smog almost completely enveloped the sprawling Ukrainian capital. With trademark gallows humor, some Ukrainians likened the grim scenes to the advent of a biblical plague and wondered whether the River Dnipro would soon turn red. The accompanying air pollution, however, was no laughing matter. By the middle of April, Kyiv had risen to first place among the world’s most polluted cities according to global air pollution ranking IQAir.

Kyiv’s scores of 380 and 429 on April 16-17 were more than double the pollution levels registered in Indian capital Delhi and other cities more traditionally associated with chronically poor air quality.

The Ukrainian Health Ministry responded to the smoky scenes by issuing somewhat redundant guidelines for Kyiv’s already quarantined residents to remain indoors and close their windows. While the smoke shrouding the city posed obvious health risks, authorities were quick to downplay fears of a radiation threat. Officials from Ukraine’s State Emergency Service assured that radiation levels remained within the normal range everywhere except for the areas closest to the fires inside the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone itself. These claims were corroborated by numerous independent third parties monitoring the situation including tour guide Kateryna Aslamova, who was taking radiation readings in Kyiv’s picturesque riverside Podil district at the height of the wildfires on April 15. 

Ukrainians were quick to praise the efforts of the firefighters working in the Chornobyl Zone, but there was also concern over an apparent lack of sufficient manpower and equipment to extinguish the blazes. Since the forest fires first began, head of Chornobyl Tour Yaroslav Yemelianenko led calls for the authorities to take stronger action. He also became involved in a volunteer drive to support the firefighters, working with the Association of Chornobyl Tour Operators to deliver much-needed provisions. According to Yemelianenko, the April 2020 blazes were the largest in the history of the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone. He said the severity of the wildfires underlined the need for a serious and comprehensive government response.

The global brand recognition that Chornobyl continues to enjoy meant April’s fires generated a flurry of international media coverage. Ukraine’s leaders were somewhat slower to react.

President Zelenskyy did not address the situation publicly until the tenth day of the fires following reports that the blaze was rapidly approaching the site of the former atomic energy plant. At around the same time, the Ukrainian parliament voted to significantly increase fines and penalties for anyone caught burning vegetation or breaching forest fire regulations. Meanwhile, sixteen days after the fires first began, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced the launch of an operation to combat arson in the region’s woodlands.

The exact cause of the fires remains undetermined. Some have been quick to suggest that the fires may have been started deliberately in order to create a new front in Russia’s ongoing hybrid war against Ukraine and further destabilize the situation in the country. Others have pointed the finger at more mundane arson. The widespread practice of burning crop stubble and other vegetation is the most possible contributing factor.

While the debate continues over the causes of the wildfires, the consequences are already all too clear. Yemelianenko says the impact of the recent blazes has been disastrous for nature, history and tourism. All three are deeply intertwined. In the 34 years since the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone was largely abandoned following the April 1986 nuclear disaster, it has become home to a unique collection of wildlife and fauna. This thriving ecosystem is now in grave danger.

Denys Vyshnevskiy of the Chornobyl Biosphere Reserve says valuable plant life and many smaller species may have been lost in the recent fires, which left large areas of woodland devastated.

The fragmentary nature of the blazes gives reason to hope that some animals survived, with larger species including the zone’s rare Przewalski’s wild horses along with wolves and bears managing to flee.

The ecologist argues that fires pose an unacceptable threat to the future of the zone not only because of the physical damage done to the forest, but because of the potential to cause spikes in radiation.

In addition to the irreplaceable loss of Chornobyl’s unique nature, the wildfires also destroyed a number of settlements and historic buildings. “A total of 12 villages were lost in the flames, including some well-known tourist sites,” confirmed Yemelianenko. “Overall, the Chornobyl tourism industry lost about one-third of our assets, many of which were in the process of being added to UNESCO’s heritage list.”

The Association of Chornobyl Tour Operators is now raising money for firefighters and residents in and around the Exclusion Zone who lost their homes in the fires. With international interest in Chornobyl tourism currently at record highs thanks to the global success of HBO’s 2019 TV miniseries “Chernobyl”it is hoped that routes can be adapted and restored to enable the continued expansion of the local tourism industry despite recent damage.

REAL-LIFE LOCATIONS OF HBO'S CHORNOBYL

Nevertheless, it is clear that Ukraine is currently ill-equipped to deal with major forest fires. This is particularly alarming given the extremely dry conditions throughout the country. The Ukrainian authorities would be well advised to learn the lessons of April’s Chornobyl fires and prepare for more of the same during the coming months. Government officials should also follow up on recent EU offers to provide international assistance in combating future forest wildfires.

This article was first published by the Atlantic Council

IRYNA MATVIYISHYN
Analyst and journalist at UkraineWorld and Internews Ukraine

 

Why Ukraine’s fight against the virus deserves a look

Published in Health
Monday, 11 May 2020 11:47

On the surface, there is nothing interesting in Ukraine’s fight against coronavirus. Although we don’t know what will happen next, something in Ukraine’s reaction to the virus deserves a second look.

On the surface, there is nothing interesting in Ukraine's fight against coronavirus. At this point, the country has been hit less by the virus than many other countries in Europe have. It does not even enter the top-30 in terms of the number of cases detected; its total death toll just passed 100 (with the daily toll mostly ranging between 5 and 10), compared to over 20,000 in the US, close to 20,000 in Spain, Italy and France, or over 3,000 in Germany.

Although we don't know what will happen next, something in Ukraine's reaction to the virus deserves a second look. The key thing: the country was incredibly fast to introduce a strict quarantine. It was introduced on March 11 when only 1 (!) case was detected. Ukraine closed its borders in mid-March, when the number of reported cases was below 10, with just 1 person dead from the virus.

This early action can be explained simply: Ukrainians are afraid of threats. They are used to them, they face them too often, and understand that sometimes you need to act quickly. Ukrainians enjoy little feeling of protection, a high feeling of a security vacuum and often prefer to act too early instead of too late.

Yevhen Hlibovytskyi, one of Ukraine's most wide-thinking intellectuals, likes to repeat that Ukrainians are perhaps the world's champions in survival. Security and safety values are those which Ukrainians share regardless of their region and which cross language, identity, religion and economic discrepancies.

According to World Values Survey's regular reports, Ukraine remains high in rational values, compared to traditionalist values; but low in terms of self-expression values, and much more inclined towards survival values. This means that Ukrainians, although more rational than we think them to be, will rather choose survival than development.

This is understandable given the peculiarities of Ukraine's history. Ukraine lost about 4 million people in Stalin's artificial famine in 1932-1933; about 1 million died in both the famines of the early 1920s and 1946-47. During World War II its population was reduced by a quarter: about 10 million people, of whom 3-4 million people died as Red Army soldiers; and out of 6 million Holocaust victims, 1 million come from Ukraine. Millions were also victims of the Soviet GULAG, as the Ukrainian intelligentsia was practically annihilated in the 1930s, and many prominent dissidents were sent to the GULAG after  Khrushchev's short-lived Ottepel.

Russian occupation of Crimea and parts of Ukrainian Donbas in 2014, and practically everyday news about deaths on the frontline ever since, merely added to this major feeling of insecurity that penetrates Ukrainian society. Add to this not only the coronavirus pandemic, but also recent forest fires in the Chornobyl area, during which Ukrainian society lived in fear that nuclear waste stores in the area would be affected.

The security vacuum is both external and internal. From outside as Ukraine lacks a security umbrella enjoyed (at least theoretically) by NATO member states, and from inside, as a Ukrainian citizen often sees law-enforcement services as an additional threat rather than protection.

There is a Ukrainian proverb that says it is better to overestimate a threat than to underestimate it. This was the logic behind the strict quarantine that was introduced so early.

Curiously, it is religion that could provoke spiraling in the number of coronavirus cases. Even more curiously, it comes from the Russian church in Ukraine (UPC-MP). Earlier, its Archbishop Pavel, head of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, said that "one should not be afraid of" the epidemic and that the faithful should "hurry to church and hug one another". Not surprisingly, Lavra became one of the hot spots of the virus in Kyiv. Just recently, Metropolitan Onufriy, the head of the UPC-MP, said its churches will hold Easter Sunday services on 19 April -- contrary to quarantine measures and to calls made by other churches (including the newly-established Ukrainian autocephalous church) to stay home. If church attendance is not limited, crowds of people will go to churches on Easter Sunday and face huge risks of virus infection.

What happens this Sunday will also be a test as to how rational Ukrainians are, and whether survival instincts are strong enough to keep them at home.

However, if the security mindset succeeds, it might pose a global question for the future. Namely, should security logic dominate over liberty logic? Should "liberal" openness be victimized and blamed for the pandemic?

It is already being blamed by neo-authoritarian actors who see the pandemic as an additional argument to blame democracy and openness. It is increasingly used by Russian propaganda against the democratic world. With the coronavirus pandemic we are entering a new global debate, where liberal democracy will be brutally attacked.

In this situation, it is important that countries and communities make a clear distinction: more security does not mean less democracy. Limitations of freedom are tolerable when necessary for public health and public safety, but not as a tool to solve all other problems.

The need for a balance between security and freedom, which was stressed by many thinkers in Ukraine over recent years, needs to be real. A balance where freedom is the necessary and unavoidable pole, and security is regarded as the tool to protect our lives and our key values -- including freedom itself.

This material was first published by Ukraine Verstehen

 
 
VOLODYMYR YERMOLENKO
chief editor at UkraineWorld.org, director for analytics at Internews Ukraine

 

Ukrainian Online Attractions Worth Checking Out During Quarantine

Published in Culture
Monday, 04 May 2020 16:02

Staying under quarantine due to the novel coronavirus poses challenges beyond just wearing masks and working from home. It also probably means you’re in for a lot of boredom, a lot of binge-watching, and a lot of scrolling your newsfeed. We’ve picked up the best Ukrainian online attractions that can help you to spend your quarantine time in Ukraine, wherever in the world you are!

Start with UkraineWOW, an interactive exhibition-trip around Ukraine and with Ukraine as a companion. It features a variety of rare items such as cubist works by Ukrainian-born sculptor Oleksandr Arkhypenko, silver hryvnia coins that date back to the Kyivan Rus, and much more. The virtual tour through the exhibition will not only show you why Ukraine is such a wowing country, but also give you the authentic feel of a journey by train that you may be missing during the quarantine.

If you are longing for outdoor activities, try going for a virtual walk through Ukrainian open-air museums. This website was created by the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture in cooperation with Google, and features seven open-air museums in different parts of the country. Guests can tour the unique ethnographic collection, learn more about their ancestors' lives, and feel the authenticity of Ukraine.

For those who can't  imagine life without travel, there's the Explore Ukraine! movie by Ukrainer, where you can discover the whole of Ukraine from above in 36 minutes with. It will show you how huge, multi-faceted, and undiscovered Ukraine is. You can also take a 360° virtual bike ride in a video by the Ukrainian Institute to explore the main sites of Ukrainian cities.

Art lovers can enjoy a 3D-tour of the Khanenko Museum, the top world art museum in Ukraine. Its collection includes original artworks by outstanding European masters, such as Pieter Paul Rubens, Gentile Bellini, Juan de Zurbarán, Jacques-Louis David, and François Boucher. You can find here beautiful and rare pieces of Iranian, Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese fine and decorative art, as well as small but interesting collections of ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian art.

The Odesa Western and Eastern Art Museum also has a large collection including works by Caravaggio, Gerard David, Jan van Scorel, Rubens, Abraham Bloemaert, Frans Hals, and others. Artwork from of China, Japan, India, Iran, and Tibet is also represented in the gallery, so you can discover the art of two continents at once while sitting on your sofa with the virtual tour around the museum.

Fans of performing arts who miss their visits to the theatre can follow the Lviv National Opera YouTube channel, which broadcasts opera and ballet every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The recordings of operas like Madame ButterflyNabucco, and Don Carlos are also available on the channel.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian pop musicians have followed the example of Robbie Williams and Coldplay and staged online shows, so you can listen to "home concerts" by JamalaO.TorvaldThe HardkissMELOVINFiolet, and NK. If you are looking for a more unique sound, also check out the Mariologia concert performed by the contemporary music vocal ensemble Alter Ratio. The concert was organised by the Ukrainian Institute in Vienna in 2019, but now you have a great opportunity to catch up.

In case your watch list is already empty, services that stream Ukrainian films can provide you with some interesting titles. The brand new online Ukrainian cinema site Takflix provides English subtitles for all the films it streams. Its movie library is not large, but already some great films on offer, including "Hutsulka Ksenya," a musical about love and discovery in the Carpathian Mountains, and "Heat Singers," a documentary about utility workers in Ivano-Frankivsk who also love to sing. If you are fond of documentaries, also check out Docuspace. The films on it tell the stories of Ukrainians trying to make positive changes in their country and communities.

The Ukrainian online-TV service OLL.tv also offers some Ukrainian movies for English-speaking audiences. One of these is the famous Ukrainian film "The Tribe" by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, which won four prizes at Cannes Film Festival in 2014. The plot of this social drama evolves in Ukrainian boarding school for the deaf people, so the story is told entirely through sign language.

There's no reason to be bored, annoyed, or angry about staying home under quarantine now - take it as a chance to learn more about Ukraine.

 
 
MARIA SIDENKO
journalist at UkraineWorld and Internews Ukraine

 

How Ukraine’s Volunteers and Businesses Are Rescuing the Nation from COVID-19

Published in World
Tuesday, 28 April 2020 16:39

The global coronavirus pandemic is a daunting challenge for Ukraine, which has been trying to reform its healthcare system. Its civil society, volunteers and private business have stepped up as usual. UkraineWorld looked into how they are uniting their efforts against the spread of COVID-19 and supporting the country’s most vulnerable.

As Euromaidan and Russia's war against Ukraine have shown, Ukrainians know how to take on imposing adversaries, though this time the enemy is invisible. While the government is expecting humanitarian assistance from China and financial help from international funds, the country's people are doing their part. Since the start of the quarantine on 17 March, numerous private and public initiatives have sprung into action to help the country's healthcare workers, elderly people and those with disabilities.

As of the end of March, Ukrainian hospitals, together with clinics being repurposed into treatment centers, have had less than 4,000 ventilators in Ukraine, according to Ukraine's Chief Sanitary Doctor, Dr. Viktor Liashko.

The urgent need for ventilators and basic protection for medical staff has prompted the private sector to come to the rescue of the country's healthcare system.

Ukraine's top private postal service, Nova Poshta, was one of the first companies to act. The company donated 25 million hryvnias (899 425 USD) to equip hospitals in Poltava Region"Business in our country has never had ideal circumstances," the co-owner of Nova Poshta, Volodymyr Popreshniuk, stated, "But now it's about survival and saving jobs." The founders urged other businessmen to join, and many have. FC Vorskla and the mining company Ferrexpo have agreed to help financially.

Corporate charitable and social actions have become a rescue force in cities across Ukraine. In Lviv, Ukraine's tourist gem of the west, one of the biggest IT companies, SoftServe, directed 10 million hryvnias to hospitals for medicines, equipment and everything necessary in cities which host its offices. Other industry peers have followed their example, including Intellias, which created a special team to track the pandemic situation in Ukraine and pledged to buy coronavirus 10 000 test kits.

At the national level, banks, large businessmen and even oligarchs have joined the fight against the virus. PrivatBank and the founder of Monobank have raised and sent money to buy ventilators for hospitals. Many have started to provide free consultations, free online courses and discounts to ease life for those who have to work or those who are helping the situation by staying home.

In Odesa, a volunteering group called Monsters Corporation is helping local hospitals alongside business and philanthropists. The head of the organization, Kateryna Nozhevnikova, regularly reports on the situation on her Facebook. Volunteers have already supplied thousands of pieces of protective gear and basic sanitary items, and started to help the elderly people who are most at risk.

"In Odesa, there are 5 500 pensioners in need of special care. And there is no way they can leave their houses," posted Yulia Kanazirska, the coordinator of the project Kind Dinner. The anti-crisis centre in Odesa Region, Odesa vs. COVID, mobilised local businesses to supply those most vulnerable with groceries and everyday needs. This is also the main mission of organizations like Starenki [Elderly -ed.], Lifelover, the Sant'Egidio community and Help a Homeless Person.

Different groups of volunteers are also trying to counter the shortage of face masks by sewing them. Some of the initiatives started to help supply Ukrainian soldiers with clothes and equipment in the frontline in 2014 are now raising money for protective gear and ventilators, as well as sewing face masks to combat the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

While dozens of NGOs and newly-emerged initiatives such as Solidarnist have been making every effort to counter the spread of the infectious disease, local governments around Ukraine were forced to respond to the challenge of the coronavirus.

Kyiv alone has more than 12 000 elderly people living by themselves to take care of. The mayor of Kyiv, Vitaliy Klychko, said the city has organized the delivery of groceries, medicines and hygienic necessities for lonely pensioners.

Similar steps have been taken in other regions. For instance, in Rivne Region, the administrative council decided to provide people with disabilities as well as the elderly with all they need to prevent them from coming into contact with other people. Ukraine has also tried to involve its state enterprises. The postal service UkrPoshta and Liki24.com have launched free delivery of medicines to Ukraine's remote villages and towns for the period of quarantine.

Once the quarantine began, public transport was severely limited and soon suspended due to the emergency situation. For this reason, Lviv city council even made an agreement with car services Uklon, Bolt, and Uber to provide free rides for healthcare workers at hospitals that treat patients with the coronavirus. At the end of March, Kyiv Uber Shuttle transformed into Shuttle Heroes, and is providing healthcare workers with free trips with promotional codes distributed through healthcare administrations and the state online service.

Even before the formal measures, Ukrainian car drivers had started to offer free rides for healthcare workers since the start of quarantine measures.

In Kyiv, Chernivtsi, Lviv, Rivne and other regions, they instantly created messenger channels and Facebook groups to help medical personnel get to their workplaces. Andriy Didun, a local businessman from Uzhhorod (Zakarpattia Region), was the first to take this initiative when the public transport was suspended in Uzhhorod. Today, "Pick up a Medic" (or "Help a Medic") is a common act of solidarity across Ukraine that helps healthcare workers to do their jobs.

Despite the coming financial calamity, small businesses have not stood on the sidelines. Together with other entrepreneurs, Didun, who sells mobile phone accessories, managed to raise money and buy necessary protective gear and basic things for infectious disease departments and hospitals.

"The infectious clinics had nothing -- neither gloves, nor masks, nor special clothes," he shared with UkraineWorld. He found the situation with protective clothing difficult because there was a lot of speculatory purchasing on the Internet. "This gear protects against chemicals, not viruses. But we can use it if there are no other options. I have friends in regional hospitals, and the situation is catastrophic there," Didun added.

The personal urge to help is where corporate solidarity started. Khrystyna Zhuk from Lviv decided to hang an announcement in her neighborhood. "I wrote that I could go to the grocery store or the pharmacy, that I would walk dogs and cats for people in high-risk groups, pregnant women, or those suffering from coronary artery disease." Not many asked for her help. "Since the situation is not critical yet," Zhuk assumes, "probably not many people are taking it seriously".

Nevertheless, as the head of the marketing department of La Piec pizzeria, Zhuk started her company's free pizza deliveries to infectious disease clinics and emergency hospitals in Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Vinnytsia. "When I saw that they were delivering pizza to doctors for free in Italy, I thought it was a brilliant idea!" she recalled to UkraineWorld. "And that's what we're doing now".

IRYNA MATVIYISHYN
Analyst and journalist at UkraineWorld and Internews Ukraine

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Can Learn A Lot About Ukraine By Watching Its Football

Published in Sport
Tuesday, 11 June 2019 11:31

Ukrainian football, which managed to survive shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, embarked on a new model of development beginning from the 2000s. The start of the new millennium in Ukrainian football was marked by wealthy businessmen and oligarchs buying or gaining control over the clubs, thereby reflecting the developments that had been occurring in the socio-political and economic life of the country.

Ukrainian football has become a favourite toy of Ukrainian oligarchs. On the one hand, it gave a short-term boost to football with the impression of a flourishing future; but, on the other hand, it has led to disastrous consequences, with many clubs ceasing to exist, a reducing in the number of clubs able to perform in the national tournament, the Premier League, and huge fall in attendances at games, among other things. So, when you see football declining, this means oligarchs have less money than before.

"OLIGARCHIZATION" OF UKRAINIAN FOOTBALL

In the early 1990s, Dynamo Kyiv, the most decorated Ukrainian football club, came  under the control of Hryhoriy Surkis, a Ukrainian businessman and politician, and then passed to his younger brother, Ihor Surkis. Rinat Akhmetov, reportedly the richest man in Ukraine, laid his hands on Shakhtar Donetsk FC carrying his team to the biggest success in the history of Ukrainian football in independent times -- victory in the 2007/2008 UEFA CUP tournament.

Other oligarchs have taken the path of these two: Oleksandr Yaroslavskiy, a Kharkiv-based business tycoon, bought Metalist FC from the same city;  Ihor Kolomoyskiy, one of the most scandalous oligarchs, became the owner of Dnipro FC, while allegedly keeping the financial influence over the Kryvbas (Kryviy Rih), Volyn (Lutsk) and Arsenal (Kyiv) football clubs. Other clubs have also fallen under the control of oligarchs. Petro Dyminskiy, a Lviv-based businessman, became the president of Karpaty (Lviv), Kostiantyn Zhevaho, a Ukrainian billionaire, became sponsor of Vorskla (Poltava), Yevhen Heller, a businessman and former MP, started financing Zorya (Luhansk), etc. 

Because of this, football has turned into a game of oligarchic nature, with clubs playing the role of toys in the hands of business tycoons and being overwhelmingly dependent on the financial injections of their owners.

Such a state of play reflects developments within the country. The oligarchic and clannish model that has been prevailing in Ukraine's economic and socio-political life has moved to national football. Clubs have become a tool to "do a little muscle-flexing" and play political games between competing rivals. Moreover, they also served, in some cases, as a source to partially legalize revenues invested in football, which had been obtained while committing allegedly corrupt activities. Successful clubs have also showed that there is a lot of "free money" in the economy that oligarchs invested into sports entertainment.

On the one side, backed by some local successes on the international arena, the rising flow of well-skilled foreign players coming to Ukraine and increase in the number of fans coming to games, it provided an imaginary conviction that Ukrainian football has become as wealthy as European football. 

But, on the other hand, this model showed its key weakness too: total non-resilience amid economic and socio-political hardships that the country may face and great losses that the moguls who own clubs may sustain.  

This trend has become most evident after Euromaidan and the start of Russia's war against Ukraine. The harsh economic situation in the country has hit oligarchs as well: they massively began to give up on their football-related commitments by drastically cutting spending on the clubs they owned or even abandoned them. In such harsh circumstances, oligarchs realized that their clubs had become "suitcases without a handle". As a result, just three years on from 2014, and 20 professional clubs in Ukraine ceased to exist, while many others are eking out a miserable existence. Moreover, many people stopped visiting stadiums, which led to  record-low attendances at stadiums.

WESTERN MODEL: FOOTBALL AS BUSINESS

One of reasons that led to such bad consequences is that, over the years of their functioning, national clubs had failed to profit from football. Despite the fact that wealthy businessmen owned Ukrainian clubs, football has hardly developed as a business. Contrary to the Western model, where football and sports is seen primarily as a business activity, in Ukraine it was perceived, to one extent or another, as a way of competition between dissenting business and political camps.

In the West, the understanding of football as a business is common knowledge. According to the 2018 Football Money League report provided annually by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, revenues of the 20 most-generating clubs reached EUR 7.9 billion in 2016/2017, with England's Manchester United securing its position at the top of the rating with more than EUR 676 million revenue in 2017. By comparison, the budget for the whole Ukrainian Premier League (UPL) tournament in 2018 was UAH 13 million (approximately USD 480,000), as former UPL head Volodymyr Heninson said.

The English Premier League (EPL) has best mastered such a business model. Among the TOP-5 European football leagues, it is first in terms of revenues. In 2017, EPL's revenues came to EUR 5.340 billion, followed by the Spanish La Liga (EUR 2.899 billion) and German Bundesliga (EUR 2.799 billion). Out of the EPL's entire amount of revenue, more than half (EUR 2.910 billion) was generated by TV broadcasting contracts and EUR 1.250 billion was earned due to sponsorship deals and other commercial activities.

Thus, the Premier League remains the most intensely marketed football league in the world. The EPL has the biggest representation in the TOP-10 list of the most valuable brands, with six clubs being there, alongside 2 Spanish clubs, and just 1 German and 1 French. The marketable value of all players that play in the EPL is also record-breaking and reached EUR 8.3 billion. By comparison, the total market value of all the players of Ukrainian Premier League in 2018/2019, was according to Transfermarkt, evaluated at almost EUR 285 million.

The poor condition of national football has on many occasions been confirmed by club owners. In 2009, Oleksandr Yaroslavskiy, the then-owner of Metalist FC, admitted that his club is "a non-performing asset," saying, moreover, that there will be no possibility to make money out of national football in the next 10 years.  Nine years later, Ihor Kolomoyskiy, ex-owner of Dnipro FC, confirmed Yaroslavskiy's words, describing his former football club as a project that leads to losses. "Football [in Ukraine] has almost died," he stressed. In an interview with Viktor Vatsko, one of the most prominent Ukrainian football commentators, in early 2019 Ihor Surkis, President of Dynamo Kyiv, answering the question about the business attractiveness of the club he owns, confessed that only if Dynamo was controlled by a true businessman could it have been seen as an asset capable of generating profit.

Such a trend is confirmed by statistical data. The figures presented by a report by UEFA, the body that runs European football, shows that Ukrainian Premier League clubs suffered losses of EUR 60 million in 2017.

WHAT IS THE WAY OUT

The oligarchic model of football management has been dominant in Ukraine for many years. However, the transformations that have been taking place in Ukrainian football since 2014 may finally become a game changer for the whole sector and lead to its future step-by-step revival.

Financial optimization is one of the tools that may, in the long-term, help Ukrainian football to get back on track. Denys Bosianok, a Ukrainian football commentator, even advocates making football salaries match the real situation in the country

Andriy Kovalenko, in his article for Dilova Stolytsia, predicts that full deoligarchisation and drastic changes in deeply rooted approaches of managing football in Ukraine are key preconditions for the game of millions in the country to begin getting up from its knees. This may, first of all, result in the total decadence of the professional football in Ukraine. However, in the long-run, it might open a new window of opportunities for the clubs, which, after years of stagnation, should realize that living within their means is precisely the way it should be done.

After the rehabilitation, new investors, in cooperation with local authorities and communities, as well as professional football managers, should become the force that will provide a helping hand for a club to survive and develop based on internationally-accepted business models. However, in order for this to become true, the overall economic prosperity of the country should also increase significantly. And the transfer from oligarchic and clannish model in the country's socio-political and economic life is paramount in this regard.

The German model of football management may serve as an example in this situation, subject to certain specifics that Ukrainian football has been living with for years. According to the German legislative framework, at least 51% of shareholders in a club, with some concrete exemptions, should constitute sport communities and football fans. It significantly minimizes the possibility for big moguls, including from those outside the country, to come into German football and establish control over its clubs. On the contrary, this, alongside professional football managers that are involved, provides for maintaining sound economic policy, which allows for profits to be earned from  organizing football with further investment in a club's development. Such a model has already confirmed its feasibility: the German Bundesliga ranks third is in the TOP-5 European leagues in terms of revenues it generates (EUR 2.799 billion in 2017), just slightly behind Spain's La Liga.

Thus, the evolution of Ukrainian football from the oligarchic nature of management to the business model, alongside a rise in living standards in the country, may become the factor that will change the rules of the game and contribute to football getting back on track.

KOSTIANTYN ROMASHKO

Analyst and journalist, Internews Ukraine and UkraineWorld

https://ukraineworld.org/articles/ukraine-explained/you-can-learn-lot-about-ukraine-watching-its-football?fbclid=IwAR20Ypi7MOBg7x21ha2Ro-Sdo6cOUA-kTMi2DooV3OEr99vW08KTn4LMXI8

Europe’s Donbas: How Western Capital Industrialized Eastern Ukraine

Published in World
Saturday, 08 June 2019 12:38

Russian aggression in Donbas in 2014 drew Europe's attention to this forgotten region. We would like to remind you, however, that the industrial potential of Donbas was built up in 19th-early 20th century and thanks in the main to Western European money.

In the 15th-17th centuries, these territories, previously known as the Wild Steppe, became part of the lands of the Ukrainian Cossacks(link to "Why Are Cossacks the Key to Understanding the Ukrainian Nation?"). As a result of the Russian-Turkish wars of the 17th-18th centuries, these lands were fully incorporated into the Russian Empire. Donbas began to be industrialized in the second half of the 19th century.

According to historians, in the late 19th - early 20th century, more than 800 million gold francs from Belgium, France, Great Britain, Germany, and Switzerland were invested in the economic development of this Ukrainian region. It was part of the Russian Empire at that time.

Cities like Donetsk, Luhansk, Druzhkivka, Yenakiieve, Selidove, Mariupol, Kostyantynivka, Horlivka, Debaltseve, Torez, Kramatorsk, Lysychansk and other cities in the Donbas region received an industrial boost from Europeans during that period.

DONBAS: FOUR SPHERES OF INFLUENCE

In the 19th century, which was when the Donetsk coalfield was discovered (the actual name 'Donbas' only became widespread at the beginning of the 20th century), foreign investment flooded it immediately. The Russian Empire needed new technologies and up-to-date heavy industry to re-equip its military-industrial complex. And in the 1890's Belgium became the first country – an official partner – to create an entire network of coal and steel enterprises, a unified system of rail connections, and even the newest fittings.

Belgian investors put 550 million gold francs in this steppe (and almost desert) region. To recalculate this into today's more, this would be more than 5.5 billion Euro.

Following the Belgians, investors from other European countries came to Ukraine's Donbas. Thus, there were four nominal spheres of influence – the so-called "Belgian province" with its centre in the city of Luhanskthe "German land" in the south of Donetsk Region, the "French region" in its eastern part, and the "English region" in the center.

The Belgians and French owned 90% of the foreign capital in Ukraine's Katerynoslav (now - Dnipro city) province, a large part of which was called Donbas. In 1900, there were about 300 enterprises in Donbas; foreign investors owned most of them. In 1913, the share of foreign capital reached 70% of total coal mining in Donbas and 86% of total ore mining in the Kryvyi Rih basin.

BELGIUM: ⅔ OF ALL INVESTMENTS IN THE COALFIELD

Nowadays, Belgium is a small country, but at that time it was the third biggest nation in the world in terms of its industrial capacity. It had also big colonial ambitions (remember Belgium's Congo in Africa). At the beginning of the 20th century, Belgium was fourth in terms of investment in the Russian Empire and had ⅔ of total investment in the Donetsk coalfield. There was a direct train to Donbas from Brussels.

In 1895, the Russian-Belgian Metallurgical Society was organized in Donbas at the initiative of several Belgian businessmen. In 1914, 31 Belgian companies were already operating there. Ten of them operated in metallurgy, seven – in the mining industry, six – in trams, and five – in producing construction materials and glass.

In Belgium, there were nine provinces at the time, and they called Donbas "the 10th province".

The participation of Belgian investors in the region's development was interrupted by the Bolshevik revolution, which destroyed the concept of "capitalist property"for decades. This fact supposedly became one of the reasons why Belgium recognized the Soviet regime only in 1935.

FRANCE: HUGE INJECTION OF FUNDS BEFORE THE REVOLUTION

The fastest French investments penetrated into the sphere of heavy industry before the Russian Bolshevik revolution. For example, in November 1914, at a meeting of shareholders of the Donetsk-Yuriivsk Metallurgical Society, 36,726 shares were presented. 510 of them belonged to the French, 61 – to Germans, 25 – to Belgians, 75 – to American capitalists, and the remainder belonged to domestic industrialists and bankers. The Alchevsk Iron and Steel Works, as founded in 1895, is one of the most famous enterprises of this society.

Before WWI, according to the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Empire, 159.1 million rubles of foreign capital were invested in the coal mining industry of the country. The share held by coal enterprises located in the Donetsk coalfield amounted to 118.6 million rubles, i.e. 74%. French capital invested 82 million of the figure, Belgian 24 million, and the capital of other countries of Western Europe reached 12.6 million rubles.

As for the metalworking and machine-building industry of Ukraine, at that time foreign capital reached 44.6 million Rubles there. Among them, Belgium invested 20.2 million, England – 12.2 million, Germany – 6.7 million, France – at least 5 million, and other countries – 0.5 million Rubles.

DONETSK: A BRITISH CITY WITH EUROPEAN SALARIES

The heart of the "English region" was the village of Yuzivka, which was founded in 1869, which turned into an industrial city after the construction of a metallurgical plant there. Nowadays this British-based city is known as the city of Donetsk.

In 1869, John Hughes, a British mining engineer from South Wales, founded the Russian-British Novorossiysk (Metallurgical) Society of coal, iron and rail production to raise a capital. In 1870, he moved to the Donbas region where he started to build a plant.

In 1872, the first blast furnace was in operation, and soon, despite the difficult start, the company demonstrated huge success. In 1910, John Hughes launched a new progressive production technology, based on anthracite. By that time, it was used only in the United States. In 1913, 74% of iron of the entire Russian Empire was produced in Yuzivka. Initially, the plant employed six thousand workers from the locals, and for 25 years their number had reached 50 thousand people.

At that time, salaries in the Donbas were also European level salaries.

In 1959, during his visit to the USA, the Soviet Secretary General Nikita Khrushchev mentioned that he worked as a mechanic of a machine-building plant in Yuzivka in 1914. Its owner was Edward Boss, an Estonian. The 20-year-old Khrushchev earned 40-45 Rubles a month. In today's figures that is more than one thousand Euros.

KOSTYANTYNIVKA: BELGIAN ARCHITECTURE AND CHEMICAL PLANTS

Kostyantynivka was built by immigrants from Belgium. As a result, this city can also boast Belgian architectural monuments from those times. The entire city infrastructure is a sequel of initial constructions.

Unfortunately, one of the most interesting architectural monuments of the city -- the house of the Gomon -- was destroyedrecently. It was built by JSC Belgian Society of Kostyantynivka's glass and chemical plants in 1902 for the manager of the bottle factory named Gomon. Anyway, the stable near this house is still kept in good condition. The Belgian office has also remained.

The secret of preserving architectural heritage is quite simple. If it is used, its owner maintains it in a decent condition.

LUHANSK: GERMAN LOCOMOTIVES

German investment came preferably to Luhansk Region.

For example, one of the most famous Luhansk enterprises – the Luhansk steam locomotive plant – was founded by the German industrialist Gustav Hartmann in 1896as Russische Maschinenbaugesellschaft Hartmann and renamed Lokomotive factory Octoberrevolution in 1918 after the Russian revolution.

LYSYCHANSK: BELGIAN HERITAGE ABROAD AWARD

At the end of the 19th century, a big part of the city of Lysychansk belonged to the village of Verhnie. Here in 1887 the Belgian engineer Ernest Solve launched the production of soda with his Belgian chemical company Solway and a merchant from Perm called Ivan Lyubimov. Unfortunately, the factory is no longer operational – it was destroyed in 2013 before the very beginning of Russian military aggression in Ukraine.

Along with that, company built houses for factory workers, gymnasium buildings, hospitals, and a church. For example, an up-to-date four-floor hospital in Lysychansk was built by the Belgians.

The Belgians built a total of 33 objects in Lysychansk. 30 of them have been preserved to this day.

In February 2018, the architecture of Lysychanskreceived the Belgian Heritage Abroad Award (2017).

________________________________________________________________

Europeans brought not only the technology of industrial productionto Ukraine, but also business skills, management experienceof large enterprises, connections with banking and industrial groups, and the spirit of capitalist entrepreneurship, thereby contributing to the industrialization of Ukraine.

By the time of the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the Donbas, previously known as "Russian America" and the flagship of industrial Europe, was in a state of decline. The economic ignorance of the Soviet authorities had led to Donbas becoming a backward region in ther 1980s with loss-making production. Today, most of its factories are located on territories occupied by the Russian Federation. Some of them are either ruined or still operate using the equipment installed at the end of the 19th century.

Sources used in this article:

Valentyna Lazebnyk, "Steel in the Steppe. View from Ukraine".

Wim Peeters, "Steel on the steppe".

Materials from the exhibitions "Foreign investments in Ukraine, end of the ХІХ – beginning of the XX century. Part I: Belgium" and "Foreign investments in Ukraine, end of the ХІХ – beginning of the XX century. Part II: France", organized by the Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

Sources used in this article:

Valentyna Lazebnyk, "Steel in the Steppe. View from Ukraine".

Wim Peeters, "Steel on the steppe".

Materials from the exhibitions "Foreign investments in Ukraine, end of the ХІХ – beginning of the XX century. Part I: Belgium" and "Foreign investments in Ukraine, end of the ХІХ – beginning of the XX century. Part II: France", organized by the Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

TETYANA MATYCHAK

 

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