Ukrainian Government Pledges $4 Million To Mark Chernobyl's 20th Anniversary

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov on Wednesday pledged 20 million hryvnia ($4 million) to mark the 20th anniversary of the deadly explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the world's worst ever nuclear accident.

A Ukrainian woman is reflected in a mirror as she waits to be operated upon for thyroid cancer at the surgery section in a hospital in Kiev, Thyroid cancer rates have skyrocketed since the Chernobyl accident. Thyroid cancer is the one illness that all scientists agree is linked to the accident. The world will mark the 20th anniversary this month of the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which sent a radioactive cloud across Europe.

The money would be spent on awards for those involved in combatting the consequences of the explosion, buying 1,000 cars for Chernobyl invalids, to build two health centers and to increase pensions for those who helped respond to the disaster, government spokesman Valery Olefir said.

The money will also be used to fund requiems on the anniversary of the explosion, print commemorative coins, publish books, organize exhibitions and upgrade the Chernobyl museum in the capital, Kiev.

On April 26, Ukraine will mark 20 years after the deadly explosion in Reactor No. 4, which released a radioactive cloud. About 600,000 people were mobilized to fight the effects of the explosion, and more than 116,000 evacuated from their homes.

The ex-Soviet republics of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia are stilling coping with the aftermath of the accident today, from skyrocketing rates of thyroid cancer to a marked increase in health concerns among the 5 million people whose land was dusted with radioactive particles.

Also Wednesday, Ukrainian artists performed a concert to honor Chernobyl victims in the village of Illintsi in the so-called exclusion zone, a high-contaminated area surrounding the plant. Pripyat, a town of 47,000 and home to the Chernobyl workers, was evacuated three days after the explosion, and followed by dozens of villages later.

Residents of some of the villages, like Illintsi, returned soon, ignoring official warnings not to return. Chernobyl's last operating reactor was closed forever in 2000.

Source: AP