Stop Henoko! Okinawans protest against US military base expansion, rape of island women, and ocean destruction

RT, April 29, 2015
Interview with Center for Biological Diversity’s Peter Galvin:

If the US military base in Okinawa is relocated to Henoko, the habitat of the endangered Okinawa dugong sea mammal, will be wiped off the map, said Peter Galvin of the Center for Biological diversity. The species is already down to a few dozen, he added.

RT: What is so wrong about the re-location of the US base from an ecological prospective?

Peter Galvin: The organization I work for, The Center for Biological Diversity focuses on the wildlife environmental protection [of] endangered species. Our focus is to protect wildlife and animals and the environment where they are threatened. And in the case of Okinawa we have a situation where there is an endangered marine mammal, the Okinawa dugong – a very, very rare population of dugongs which is kind of like a sea cow, a little bit like a manatee that they have in the US. And these gentle giants of the ocean… there is between 12 and 15 dugongs remaining in Okinawa… They are a critically endangered population and the site of their habitat in Okinawa, the primary habitat is the site that US and Japanese governments want to fill in to expand a military base in Henoko.

READ MORE: ‘Don’t rape the sea!’ Hundreds protest US military base relocation plan in Japan

The base controversy has a strong environmental component to it, as well as folks in Okinawa that are concerned about peace issues, sovereignty issues, and military threat issues. Our focus is environmental issues. In this situation there is a convergence of a variety of issues including environmental issues, peace, Okinawa sovereignty issues – all playing together in one action. It is a very controversial proposal. The base plan would fill in a very rich area of coral reef in a place called Oura Bay which is on the eastern side of Okinawa, north east Okinawa. And it would be just an enormous landfill project into the ocean which has a huge number of people in Okinawa, in Japan, throughout the world up in arms that in this day and age the US and Japanese governments would pay so little heed to the local population, that they would basically just bulldoze over the local opposition and literally bulldoze over the coral reef and fill it in. So the dugong is a desperately endangered marine mammal that we’ve been working to protect for two decades. Our group along with several other groups launched a lawsuit in US Federal Court, a number of years ago to stop this base expansion project. Our case still continues through the court system. But unfortunately, the project is in the beginning phases now. And as you can see there’s a huge amount of controversy in Okinawa over it that is now manifesting.

RT: Could you give examples of how the re-location of the US base to Henoko is harming flora and fauna? We’ve heard about concrete blocks in the ocean. Any other examples?

PG: Literally, you used the word concrete. And yes, as a matter of fact one of the aspects of any kind of project like this is the contractors bore into the ocean at different places to see the strength of the material at the ocean floor. The sound of the drilling, the construction process, and all the ships out there dumping the concrete pilings into the ocean. … Dugongs are herbivores and they feed on sea grass, they graze like a cow… The huge amount of disturbance in the area is causing the dugongs to change their patterns and that’s a risk enough. But here is the real problem: after these boring surveys and the concrete blocks, if the project continues literally millions and millions of tons of soil are brought in and the ocean itself is filled and land is created from the ocean, the coral reef will be entirely decimated, the sea grass in that entire area will be gone. This is the prime feeding habitat for the endangered Okinawa dugong. These species is down to a few dozen individuals and this is its primary habitat. The impact from the base cannot be understated or overstated and will literally wipe this area of the habitat off the map.

‘Don’t rape the sea!’ Hundreds protest US military base relocation plan in Japan
RT, April 28, 2015

About 300 people protested against the planned relocation of a US military base in Japan’s Okinawa prefecture. The rally fell on the 63rd anniversary of the country’s regaining of sovereignty after its defeat in World War II.

The demonstrators gathered on Tuesday, at the gates of the US Marines’ Camp Schwab in the tourist seaside town of Nago, Kyodo news agency reported. The district has been proposed as a relocation site for the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

The participants of the protest chanted slogans such as “we’re opposed to a new base” and “don’t destroy the beautiful sea.”

Continue reading

Italian official says anti-Russian sanctions may be lifted

From Sputnik News, April 29, 2015

Ukraine’s Embassy in Rome has sent an official request to the Italian Foreign Ministry for comment on a recent statement by an official from the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finances about Italy possibly lifting anti-Russian sanctions in the near future, Ukrainian newspaper Evropeyskaya Pravda reported, citing a diplomatic source.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, second left, welcomes his counterparts from France, Laurent Fabius, right, Russia, Sergey Lavrov, left, and Ukraine, Pavlo Klimkin, second right, for a meeting on the situation in Ukraine in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015.
According to the newspaper, the diplomatic demarche, signed by Ukrainian Ambassador to Italy Heorhiy Chernyavskyi, was sent to the Italian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday. In the document, Chernyavskyi is said express doubts about the competence of Federico Eichberg, the Head of a Task Force on Foreign Investments at the Ministry of Economic Development. The Ambassador is also said to have proposed that the Foreign Ministry “respond to statements by Eichberg which directly contradict the government’s official position.”

Speaking at an Italian business conference in Milan earlier this week, Eichberg stated that Italy will not support the continuation of economic sanctions directed against Russia. “Italy has made it clear since February that the Council of Ministers will not vote for the extension of sanctions,” the official noted.

Russian analysts have commented that the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s protest seems to have come at rather an odd time, given that top Italian officials up to the ministerial level have been complaining about sanctions for several months now.

View image on Twitter

the Lemniscat @theLemniscat

Sanctions hurt Europe more than Russia Sanctions cost Italy over €5bn & 300,000 jobs 
3:18 AM – 17 Apr 2015

On Monday, Italian Minister of Economy and Finance Pier Carlo Padoan told reporters at a press conference that he “sincerely hope[s] that we will come to canceling [the] sanctions as soon as possible, and that economic partnership between Europe and Russia, as well as Italy and Russia will continue to grow.”

Late last month, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told German media that the EU is too fixated on the Ukrainian crisis, for which it has blamed Russia, while ignoring other, equally important problems, adding that he has recommended that Prime Minister Matteo Renzi restore relations with Moscow, including the “partial lifting of sanctions.”

Flags of Russia, EU, France and coat of arms of Nice on the city's promenade
Moreover, over the past year, Italian media have complained vigorously about the economic losses the country has suffered as a result of the sanctions policy. Italian businessmen last month stated that in 2014, trade turnover between the countries fell by 17 percent, with exports falling by 11.6 percent. The food and textile industries were most heavily hit, with supplies decreasing by 38 and 16 percent, respectively. In February, Banca Intesa estimated that the sanctions have caused 5.3 billion euros worth of losses for the Italian economy.

Already teetering on the brink of crisis, Europe’s economies have been dealt a heavy blow by sanctions and Russian countersanctions initiated last year over the Ukraine crisis.

Заявление Елены Бондаренко—депутата Верховной Рады Украины

In English: Statement by Elena Bondarenko—People’s Deputy of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine 

Публичные угрозы, аресты блогеров, убийства представителей оппозиции, расправы с журналистами, которые писали “не в интересах власти”—это ли предел политики гордого европейского демократического государства Украины? Ситуация усугубляется всё более, а яма становится всё глубже. Нет, они не сумеют замолчать всех—скорее, эффект будет обратный. Хотя, пока мировая общественность продолжает игнорировать, если не поощрять, беспредел, устраиваемый пришедшей в результате государственного переворота власти.

Опубликованное ниже заявление народного депутата Украины, Елены Бондаренко, было сделанно еще в сентябре 2014 года, на ее странице Facebook. Тогда же его практически проигнорировали, однако вспыхнувшая волна убийств в Украине придала новой, чудовищной актуальности, обращая внимание еще раз на образ ведение политики новой власти: 


“Я, Елена Бондаренко, народный депутат от Партии регионов, которая находится в оппозиции к нынешней власти в Украине, хочу заявить о том, что власть опускается до прямых угроз физического устранения оппозиционных политиков в Украине, до лишения права на свободу слова оппозиции в парламенте и за его пределами, а также до соучастия в преступлениях против не только оппозиционных политиков, но и их детей.

Постоянные угрозы, негласный запрет на присутствие оппозиции в эфире большинства украинских каналов, целенаправленная травля—это уже как атрибут повседневной жизни оппозиционного депутата в Украине. Все, кто призывает к миру в Украине, сразу же записываются властью во враги народа, как это было, к примеру, в Германии 30-40 годов прошлого века или во времена политики маккартизма в США.

Несколько дней назад Министр внутренних дел Украины Арсен Аваков, который является ярым сторонником так называемой «партии войны» в Украине, заявил следующее: “Когда выходит на парламентскую трибуну выступать Елена Бондаренко, рука просто тянется к пистолету.”

Подчеркиваю: это сказал человек, наделенный полномочиями главного полицейского в государстве. Ровно неделю назад спикер украинского парламента Александр Турчинов также лишил меня права выступить с парламентской трибуны как представителя оппозиционной фракции «Партии регионов». Лишил только за то, что я заявила, что «власть, которая посылает армию бомбить мирные города,—преступна». После чего он же благодушно дал возможность парламентским радикалам озвучить призыв расстрелять оппозицию.

Памятуя то, что еще в конце прошлого года, когда в Киеве уже орудовали экстремисты, мой автомобиль был обстрелян и этот факт был зафиксирован мною заявлением в правоохранительных органах, отношусь к подобным угрозам в мой адрес вполне серьезно.Также информирую всех, кто еще этого не знает, что нынешняя власть покрывает преступников, которые посмели поднять руку на сына другого оппозиционного политика Владимира Олейника. Руслан Олейник, выполняя обязанности районного прокурора, был избит на своем рабочем месте, в результате чего его жизнь и здоровье оказались под угрозой. Вместо того, чтобы расследовать данный факт нападения на прокурора при выполнении его обязанностей и факт чудовищного давления на оппозиционера и его семью, власть уволила данного прокурора. От своих коллег еженедельно я слышу об избиении их помощников, об обысках на предприятиях их сторонников, об угрозах, а также посягательствах на их жизнь, здоровье и имущество.

Украинское информационное пространство почти целиком зачищено от данной информации и обычные украинцы даже не догадываются, что в Украине ведется преступная борьба с оппозицией, что данное Конституцией право на свободу слова всячески подавляется. Те же редакции, которые, превозмогая страх, работают честно подвергаются нападениям националистических группировок, а организаторы и участники погромов редакций, даже идентифицированные по видео и фотоматериалам, не привлекаются к ответственности.

Я призываю международные структуры, которые декларируют приверженность демократическим принципам, не просто обратить на это внимание, а и подключиться к борьбе за сохранение и соблюдение демократических прав и свобод украинских граждан. Методы украинской хунты в борьбе за власть, а точнее в борьбе за построение диктатуры в Украине не имеют ничего общего с понятием «демократия». Бездействие со стороны международного сообщества в отношении этих вопиющих фактов будет выглядеть как соучастие и молчаливое одобрение всех тех преступлений, которые сейчас совершаются в Украине. Свободный мир теряет еще один форпост—Украину. Все, кто не на словах, а на деле, борется за демократию, права и свободы человека могут сообща сделать многое. Ведь только сообща мы можем остановить хунту и братоубийственную войну в Украине!

С уважением,
народный депутат Украины, Елена БОНДАРЕНКО”


Political assassinations in Ukraine — Statement by Rada Deputy Elena Bondarenko

By Olga Luzanova
Global Research, April 29, 2015

[translated from Russian]

Below, we publish a translation of a statement made by Rada deputy, Elena Bondarenko, on September 10, 2014 . The  statement was originally published on her facebook page, but went largely ignored at the time. The recent spate of assassinations in Ukraine has given the statement a new, grizzly relevance, and it is for this reason that we are publishing a translation of it at this late date.

Translated by Alya & Alan Bailey / Edited by Olga Luzanova

I, Elena Bondarenko, a deputy of Partiya Regionov [Party of the Regions –ed.], which is in opposition to the governing party in Ukraine, would like to make a statement about the fact that the government is directly threatening with assault opposition politicians, depriving them of freedom of speech in the parliament and in other places, as well as conniving in the crimes against opposition leaders and their children.

Persistent threats, an undeclared ban on opposition parties appearing in the majority of Ukrainian mass media, purposeful baiting—these are everyday things in the life of the opposition in Ukraine. Everybody who calls for peace in Ukraine immediately becomes an enemy to the regime as it was, for instance, in 30-40’s Germany or in the USA during the McCarthyite era.

A few days ago the Ukrainian Internal Affairs Minister, Arsen Avakov, said: “When Elena Bondarenko ascends the parliamentary tribune, I want to reach for my gun.”

I emphasise the fact that those are the words of the person who has the main authority over the police in the country. Exactly a week ago the Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament, Alexander Turchinov, banned me from the parliamentary tribune as a representative of the opposition Party of the Regions. It was done solely because of my words, that “a regime that sends its army to bomb peaceful cities is criminal.” After that, he kindly allowed the parliamentary radicals to call for the shooting of the opposition .

I remember last year, when Kiev was flooded with extremists, my car was shot at. I reported this fact to the police. I take such threats to myself very seriously. I also would like to inform everyone who is not aware yet, that the regime protects the criminals who dared to raise their hand against the son of another opposition politician—Vladimir Oleynik. Ruslan Oleynik, a district public prosecutor, was beaten up in his work place, putting his life and health under threat. Instead of investigating the attack and threats against the politician and his family, the regime fired the prosecutor. My colleagues complain weekly about their assistants being beaten up, their supporters’ offices being searched, their lives, health and possessions threatened.

Ukrainian cyberspace is almost totally censored of this information, and ordinary Ukrainian citizens have no idea of the criminal fight against the opposition and of the fact that the constitutional right to freedom of speech is suppressed in many ways. The mass media who tell the truth in spite of their fear constantly get attacked by nationalist groups, and hooligans who assault publishing offices are never prosecuted, even when they are identified by video and photographic proof of their involvement is available.

I call upon international organisations who proclaim their democratic principles to not only pay attention to these facts but also to join the fight for democratic rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens. The methods used by the Junta in their struggle for power in Ukraine have nothing to do with democracy. Inactivity of the international community towards these outrageous facts looks like complicity and silent approval of all the crimes being committed in Ukraine. The free world is losing another outpost—Ukraine. All those who fight for democracy, peoples rights and freedoms, can bring about many changes together. Only together can we stop the Junta and the fratricidal war in Ukraine!

Yours sincerely,
People’s deputy of Ukraine, Elena BONDARENKO.

Western values: French troops rape and sexually abuse children

 “The regular sex abuse by peacekeeping personnel uncovered here and the United Nations’ appalling disregard for victims are stomach-turning, but the awful truth is that this isn’t uncommon. The UN’s instinctive response to sexual violence in its ranks – ignore, deny, cover up, dissemble – must be subjected to a truly independent commission of inquiry with total access, top to bottom, and full subpoena power.” — Paula Donovan, co-director of Aids Free World

From the Guardian, April 29, 2015
Sandra Laville

A senior United Nations aid worker has been suspended for disclosing to prosecutors an internal report on the sexual abuse of children by French peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic.

Sources close to the case said Anders Kompass passed the document to the French authorities because of the UN’s failure to take action to stop the abuse. The report documented the sexual exploitation of children as young as nine by French troops stationed in the country as part of international peacekeeping efforts.

Kompass, who is based in Geneva, was suspended from his post as director of field operations last week and accused of leaking a confidential UN report and breaching protocols. He is under investigation by the UN office for internal oversight service (OIOS) amid warnings from a senior official that access to his case must be “severely restricted”. He faces dismissal.

The treatment of the aid worker, who has been involved in humanitarian work for more than 30 years, has taken place with the knowledge of senior UN officials, including Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the high commissioner for human rights, and Susanna Malcorra, chef de cabinet in the UN, according to documents relating to the case.

Related: France’s poisoned legacy in the Central African Republic The abuses took place in 2014 when the UN mission in the country, Minusca, was in the process of being set up.

The Guardian has been passed the internal report on the sexual exploitation by Paula Donovan, of the advocacy group Aids Free World, who is demanding an independent commission inquiry into the UN’s handling of sexual abuse by peacekeepers.

It was commissioned by the UN office of the high commissioner for human rights after reports on the ground that children, who are among the tens of thousands displaced by the fighting, were being sexually abused.

Entitled Sexual Abuse on Children by International Armed Forces and stamped “confidential” on every page, the report details the rape and sodomy of starving and homeless young boys by French peacekeeping troops who were supposed to be protecting them at a centre for internally displaced people in Bangui, capital of the CAR.

Donovan, the co-director of Aids Free World. said: “The regular sex abuse by peacekeeping personnel uncovered here and the United Nations’ appalling disregard for victims are stomach-turning, but the awful truth is that this isn’t uncommon. The UN’s instinctive response to sexual violence in its ranks – ignore, deny, cover up, dissemble – must be subjected to a truly independent commission of inquiry with total access, top to bottom, and full subpoena power.”

The UN has faced several scandals in the past relating to its failure to act over paedophile rings operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kosovo and Bosnia. It has also faced allegations of sexual misconduct by its troops in Haiti, Burundi and Liberia.

The treatment of Kompass, a Swedish national, threatens to spark a major diplomatic row.

This month, the Swedish ambassador to the United Nations warned senior UN officials “it would not be a good thing if the high commissioner for human rights forced” Kompass to resign. The ambassador threatened to go public if that happened and to engage in a potentially ugly and harmful debate.

The abuses detailed in the internal report took place before and after Minusca was set up last year. Interviews with the abused children were carried out between May and June last year by a member of staff from the office for the high commissioner of human rights and a Unicef specialist. The children identified represent just a snapshot of the numbers potentially being abused.

Related: Sex abuse poses ‘significant risk’ to UN peacekeeping, says leaked report The boys, some of whom were orphans, disclosed sexual exploitation, including rape and sodomy, between December 2013 and June 2014 by French troops at a centre for internally displaced people at M’Poko airport in the capital Bangui.

The children described how they were sexually exploited in return for food and money. One 11-year-old boy said he was abused when he went out looking for food. A nine-year-old described being sexually abused with his friend by two French soldiers at the IDP camp when they went to a checkpoint to look for something to eat.

The child described how the soldiers forced him and his friend to carry out a sex act. The report describes how distressed the child was when disclosing the abuse and how he fled the camp in terror after the assault. Some of the children were able to give good descriptions of the soldiers involved.

In summer 2014, the report was passed to officials within the office for the high commission of human rights in Geneva. When nothing happened, Kompass sent the report to the French authorities and they visited Bangui and began an investigation.

It is understood a more senior official was made aware of Kompass’s actions and raised no objections. But last month Kompass was called in and accused of breaching UN protocols by leaking details of a confidential report, according to sources.

Kompass’s emails have been seized as part of the investigation into the alleged leak. One senior UN official has said of Kompass that “it was his duty to know and comply” with UN protocols on confidential documents.

Bea Edwards, of the Government Accountability Project, an international charity that supports whistleblowers, condemned the UN for its witch-hunt against a whistleblower who had acted to stop the abuse of children.

“We have represented many whistleblowers in the UN system over the years and in general the more serious the disclosure they make the more ferocious the retaliation,” said Edwards. ”Despite the official rhetoric, there is very little commitment at the top of the organisation to protect whistleblowers and a strong tendency to politicise every issue no matter how urgent.”

UN sources confirmed an investigation by the French was ongoing – in cooperation with the UN – into allegations of a very serious nature against peacekeepers in the Central African Republic.

A spokesman for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed an investigation was under way into the leaking of confidential information by a staff member.


American and Ukrainian lies continue as Kiev announces readiness to escalate war

By Stephen Lendman
Global Research, April 27, 2015

Hundreds of US combat troops are preparing Kiev’s Nazi-infested National Guard, Azov battalion and likeminded extremist paramilitary groups for escalated aggressive war on Donbass.

Nothing is reported on continuing low-level war on Donbass ahead of resuming it full-blown.

Novorossia Today explained “US-backed Nazi elements are integral to the continued illegal war against the East, and prominently in the future trajectory of the Ukrainian state.”

Ukraine is Obama’s war – using Kiev fascists to do his dirty work, by all available means without mercy.

“…US policy and media propaganda work hand-in-glove to inflame the situation in a country already on fire,” Novorossia explains.

Russia’s Defense Ministry accused Washington of destabilizing conditions in Ukraine more than already by provocatively training Kiev forces for combat – including near Southeastern cities of Mariupol, Severodonetsk, Artyomovsk and Volnovakha.

Russia’a Foreign Ministry issued a similar statement – saying increased bloodshed may follow US combat troops involved in Ukraine, including training and joint drills with Kiev forces.

On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf lied saying:

“It is really hard to get precise information about Russian troop numbers specifically, but we know there is a substantial Russian presence” in Ukraine.

On Wednesday, the State Department turned truth on its head accusing Russia of violating Minsk ceasefire terms by sending troops and weapons to Donbass.

Fact: No evidence suggests Russian Minsk violations – or any Russian military involvement since conflict began last April.

Fact: Repeated claims of “Russian aggression” are Big Lies. None whatever exists – not now, earlier or planned.

Fact: Plenty of evidence shows Washington arming Kiev’s military with heavy weapons and training its forces for escalated war on Donbass – in blatant violation of Minsk.

Poroshenko pronounced Kiev’s military ready for combat. “The lion’s share of military personnel is from the fourth wave of mobilization,” he said.

“Look what a high level was achieved in just two months,” he boasted.

“We are preparing for the defense of our country” – code language for intending resumed full-scale war, at Obama’s discretion.

“On the territory of Ukraine there is now an aggressor, the enemy and we must do everything possible on our end in order to ensure effective defense,” Poroshenko blustered.

“Those who participated in these exercises clearly demonstrated a high level … the Ukrainian army today is one of the most battle-ready,” he added.

He’s planning escalated war without mercy.

How “battle ready” Ukrainian forces are remains to be seen. Donbass freedom fighters routed them last year.

More of the same is likely if full-scale war resumes – unless America gets directly involved, perhaps with air power terror-bombing.

Head of Russia’s General Staff Main Operation Directorate Lt. General Andrey Kartapolov accused America of being the main initiator or all modern conflicts.

Washington and rogue allies attacked other countries aggressively without cause over 50 times in one decade, he said.

US policy intends mainly to marginalize, contain, weaken, and isolate Russia, he stressed.

In January, Putin said US political, economic and military support for Kiev aims to “achiev(e) the geopolitical goals of restraining Russia.”

Ukraine’s army is a US-controlled “NATO legion. We often say: Ukrainian Army, Ukrainian Army. But who is really fighting there?”

“There are, indeed, partially official units of armed forces, but largely there are the (Nazi-infested) so-called ‘volunteer nationalist battalions,’ ” Putin explained.

They don’t serve Ukrainian interests, Putin maintained. They target Russia on orders from Washington.

They comprise “a foreign NATO legion, which, of course, doesn’t pursue the national interests of Ukraine,” Putin stressed.

“Unfortunately official Kiev authorities refuse to follow the path of a peaceful solution. They don’t want to resolve (crisis conditions) using political tools.”

They want war, not peace. Kartapolov accused Washington of sending US combat troops “directly in the combat zone near Mariupol, Severodonetsk, Artyomovsk and Volnovakha.”

“The US appears to be the ultimate instigator of all military conflicts in the world,” he said.

“The Western countries have begun to hold themselves out as ‘architects’ of the international relations system, leaving to the US the role of the world’s only superpower.”

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama terror-bombed seven countries in six years in office. He has more naked aggression in mind.

The “deplorable results (of US wars) are known all to well,” Kartapolov stressed. They continue endlessly against nonbelligerent nations.

A UN report calls Syria and Iraq “international finishing schools for extremists.” Afghanistan, parts of Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia follow the same pattern.

Imported terrorists from scores of countries infest these nations. Washington bears full responsibility.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at . His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” Visit his blog site at Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network. It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.

Smoke from Chernobyl fire could spread radiation far and wide – experts

From RT, April 29, 2015

 RT video screenshot
 RT video screenshot 

Smoke from burning forests in the Chernobyl exclusion zone is capable of spreading contaminants across great distances, even after the fire has been stopped, ecology experts told RT.

The forest fire near the crippled Chernobyl nuclear power plant started on Tuesday and triggered an emergency alert, with police and National Guard mobilized to bring the flames under control.

By Wednesday, the country’s Emergency Ministry, as well as the prime minister, who went to the affected area, said the spread of the fire had been stopped and firefighters were containing the remaining flames.

The fire occurred within 30 kilometers of the Chernobyl power plant, inside the exclusion zone which was abandoned and cordoned off almost 30 years ago. In 1986, an explosion and fire in Chernobyl’s Reactor 4 caused a release of radioactive particles into the air, which contaminated the surrounding area and caused an increase in radiation levels in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and across Europe. It was the worst ever nuclear disaster in terms of casualties and clean-up costs. The crippled reactor itself was sealed under a sarcophagus of reinforced concrete.

Although the sarcophagus remains untouched by the fire, decades-old contaminants could still be released and travel far and wide, borne aloft by the smoke, nuclear safety expert John H. Large told RT:

“Brush fires and forest fires were the greatest concern in terms of the means by which you can disperse a secondary radiological impact from the original dissipation that occurred in 1986,” he said.

John went to Chernobyl in 2006 to assess the situation there and spoke to dozens of scientists working on containing the contamination.

“In the exclusion zone and further away you have an area that has been abandoned for farming, abandoned for man management,” John says. “That means you’ve got lots of brush and young wood growing out of control, and that means there’s a big fuel load to have a fire.”

He says the high temperatures and volumes of smoke produced in a forest fire can take contaminants hundreds of kilometers away from the exclusion zone: “Radiation really doesn’t respect any international boundaries.”

Forest fires have happened in the area before, but have never been so serious, Timothy Mousseau, biology professor at the University of South Carolina, told RT:

“Previous forest fires had re-released about eight percent of the radiation from the original catastrophe. The fire that we’re seeing today seems to be on a much larger scale, and so we could see a re-dispersion of a very significant component of the original radiation.”

Another problem is that as the trees that have absorbed contaminants burn up and release smoke, this turns radioactive particles into a much more dangerous form than if they simply lie in the ground.

“Internal radiation from inhalation – in other words, if you inhale something radioactive and it gets inside you – is very much more dangerous than just the background radiation that comes off the ground,” says Christopher Busby, the scientific secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risks.

French nuclear safety research institution IRSN created this simulation video, modelling the spread of caesium-137 from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Christopher Busby commented on how far radioactive particles can potentially spread: “After Chernobyl itself, they ended up in the atmosphere and they went right across the Baltic States and into Finland, and over Sweden, and then to the United Kingdom, where they caused significant increases in cancer.”