Ukrainian Militants Seized a Nuclear Facility – Interior Ministry and SBU Washed Their Hands of the Matter

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


In Kiev militants of the “Aidar” battalion captured the Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants of Ukraine, which works with nuclear materials. The following is an interview with the Director of the institute Anatoly Nosovsky.

What does the institute represent and what does it do?

“Our institute is 25 years old. It’s history dates back to the Chernobyl disaster. At first it was a group of scientists from the ‘Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy’. They carried out scientific and technical support for the elimination of consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. Since Ukraine gained independence in 1992, on the basis of an expedition of scientists of the Kurchatov Institute the inter-industry scientific and technological center ‘Ukrytie’ [shelter – ed] of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine was created, which dealt with the issues of the transformation of the ‘Ukrytie’ object into an ecologically safe system. The center was developed and in 2004 it was transformed into the Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants. From this point on the institute started dealing not only with problems of the Chernobyl plant, but also all the nuclear power plants of Ukraine.

The main authorized scientific activities of the institute is work connected with the transformation of the ‘Ukrytie’ object into an ecologically safe system, the removal from operation of the power units of the Chernobyl plant, the treatment of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste, and also ensuring the scientific and technical maintenance of activities to increase the safety of the operating power units of the nuclear power plants of Ukraine. The institute has State (budgetary financing) support, and there are economically-calculated matters by request of the nuclear power plants of Ukraine. 320 people work at the institute. The main laboratory facility is in Chernobyl, and here in the Kiev office work for the nuclear power industry of Ukraine is performed.”

When did you learn about the joint venture on the territory of your institute?

“At the beginning of 2016, when I was appointed the Director of the Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants of Ukraine, I initiated the carrying out of a financial audit of the establishment, as a result of which the presence on the territory of the institute of some enterprise that uses the areas of the institute through the transfer of their lease to third-party enterprises, while no dividends are paid to the institute. Therefore a decision was made on the withdrawal of this enterprise. Concerning this matter I addressed the leadership of the academy and the court.”

What kind of joint venture is it?

“As I understand, this is an enterprise of the ‘plunder and flee’ type, which doesn’t produce anything, but uses the rooms belonging to the institute and rents them out.”

And then what?

“The institute left the structure of its founders. According to the foundation agreement, after the withdrawal all the buildings that were transferred for the use of the joint venture must be returned back to the institute. But, unfortunately, this didn’t happen. They didn’t return anything. Then the institute employed legal support and a security organization, and gradually began to work for the return of State property. We were able to establish control over the territory of the institute, take it under guard, and establish a regime of access.”

How much territory did this firm occupy?

“From 2.5 hectares to 6.5 hectares.”

How did the active phase of the conflict begin?

“On February 16th, at 00:00, the Director of this firm, with unknown persons who presented themselves as representatives of ‘Right Sector’, forcefully stormed the territory of the institute and tried to take it under their control. However, the guard managed to prevent the seizure of the territory. I reported about this attempted raider-capture to the Academy of Sciences, to Avakov, Turchynov, and Gritsak.

But already on March 31st a group of 20-25 people with chevrons of the ‘Aidar’ battalion – under the leadership of the same director of the ‘Master & Co furniture’ enterprise, together with the representative of the ‘Aidar’ battalion Sergey Grab (the staff of the institute saw his documents) by force came into the territory of the institute. They were with automatic rifles. The police arrived, had a look, and left. After this I repeatedly reported to Avakov and Turchynov, wrote to the police, Matios, and Gritsak.”

Did the officials respond to you with anything?

“Turchynov wrote that our appeal had been sent to the Prosecutor-General’s Office for consideration. The Prosecutor-General’s Office sent it to the Kiev Prosecutor’s office. The Kiev Prosecutor’s office sent it to the Goloseevsky police. The police replied, saying that a ‘full and comprehensive’ verification had been carried out, and information had been entered into the register. And that’s all. There is such a feeling that it isn’t State property…”

They began an investigation?

“I came to the police, the 25-year-old investigator was sat there. I ask him what about our case? And he told me that he currently in motion more than 150 criminal cases, that’s why he can’t yet deal with my case. And that’s all. Three criminal cases, which, in fact, actually aren’t being investigated, are in motion. The violation continues, and State property is being kept by force by raiders with the help of people with chevrons of the ‘Aidar’ battalion. Bodies of the National Police took a position of full non-interference in the illegal actions and practically don’t take any measures to defend State property that belongs to the sphere of leadership of the Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants of Ukraine.”

What happens now in these rooms? Recently I passed nearby and saw that some cars are being repaired there?

“I don’t know what they are engaged in there, but the institute disconnected all communications with them and electricity, etc. But they activated diesel generators and continue to work. After all, we can’t go as a group of research associates and expel them from there by force. At the same time there are still people there with machine guns.”

Are there Sources of Ionising Radiation (SIR) on the territory of your institute?

“We have a special laboratories in which work with Sources of Ionising Radiation is carried out. At the time of the raider-capture, on the territory of the institute there were powerful dangerous sources, but after known events we made the decision on their export to the ‘Izotop’ firm, but a part still remains. This concerns Caesium, Cobalt, and other SIRs. After all, at any moment, bandits could come into the laboratory rooms and seize powerful radioactive sources. This already smells like nuclear terrorism.”

If you work with SIRs, then you aren’t under State protection?

“Of course. Our laboratory rooms are under State protection. At the time of the raider-capture the staff of the institute called representatives of State protection. They arrived, stood around, asked is someone broke into the laboratory? If not, then we have nothing to do here. They turned around and left. Most likely, nobody desires to mess with ‘Aidar’.”

In September, on your website a message appeared about the IAEA carrying out an inspection, what conclusions did the inspectors come to?

“On September 6th-7th there was a IAEA inspection. The International Atomic Energy Agency controls the activity of the institute regarding the use of nuclear materials, and there still aren’t any undeclared activities in the official report on this inspection, but they didn’t go on the territory not under the control of the Institute. I can’t allow inspectors on territory where there are armed people. Therefore, they don’t know what is there. Imagine how much of a shock it would have been for international inspectors? For them it is a nonsense, but for Ukraine it is a reality.”

Have you appealed to the courts?

“We filed a claim to the commercial court. The court made a half-measured decision, namely, it obliged our occupiers to leave the structure of the founders, but the court didn’t begin to consider the property dispute. Despite the fact that in the authorized contract it is accurately stated that as soon as the institute leaves the structure of the founders, all State property must be returned to the bosom of the institute. Then we filed a claim to the Court of Appeal, and there the judges recused themselves. Most likely they also don’t want to mess with ‘Aidar’. The next meeting is scheduled for October 10th.”

What scenario of solving the conflict do you count on?

“I hope that all the rooms and land of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine will be returned to State ownership. But for this purpose there is a need for our law enforcement structures to provide the necessary level of protection for this State property. For now it turns out that this is the responsibility of only the administrations of the institute.

I can add that today the Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants of Ukraine still possesses considerable property, consisting of buildings and the land on which they are located. It is of great value, according to some estimates – $40 billion. Also it is necessary for power structures to provide protection for this State property. Otherwise such a time can soon come when raiders, based on such facts of impunity, will lay claim not only to the territory of the Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants of Ukraine, but also the sites of nuclear power plants themselves.”

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