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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 15, 2000

THE PRESIDENT: President Kuchma, honored guests, people of Ukraine: today is a great day for Ukraine and for the world.

On April 26, 1986, reactor number four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant suffered a runaway chain reaction, causing the worst nuclear disaster in history. That horrible destruction has offered us lessons, not only in nuclear technology, but also in people and governments. For when governments are arrogant and unaccountable, they will impose unacceptable risks on the health and safety of their people.

After the disaster, the outspoken father of the Soviet atomic program, Dr. Andrei Sakharov, declared that the safe use of nuclear technology demands open discussions and informed citizens. So it is fitting that while a communist government of the USSR built the unsafe plant, a free and independent Ukraine is shutting it down. It is also fitting to recall that the very event that exposed the weakness of the Soviet system revealed the courage and valor of the Ukrainian people.

Fourteen years ago, Ukrainians took heroic steps to contain the danger and protect their people. Today, we see that same commitment, as Ukraine, with the cooperation of the United States, the G-7 and the EU, fulfills its historic decision to shut down the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant forever. This is a triumph for the common good. It is what is possible when free, democratic nations pursue common goals. As President Kuchma noted some years ago, after Ukrainian cosmonaut Leonid Kadenyk joined American astronauts on the space shuttle: "not even the sky is the limit to Ukrainian-U.S. cooperation."

America will stand with Ukraine as you fight for a free and prosperous future. We will support Ukraine's efforts to take your rightful place among the nations of Europe and alongside the world's free market democracies.

As you open your economy, strengthen the rule of law, and protect a free press, you are both attacking the ills that led to the Chernobyl disaster and building a future where the children of Ukraine can live their dreams. America is on your side. We wish you Godspeed. Slava Ukrayini.