Interview with Anatoly Panov, the Executive Director of the “Green World” Association
Kiev, August 1991
I was cruising down the Dnieper with a peace group.
Metta Spencer (M): What is your role within the “Green World”? You are the Vice-President? Is that correct?
Anatoly Panov (AP): I’m now the executive director of the“Green World” association.
M: Which is based in Kiev? Does it also exist in the other republics?
AP: The “Green World” exists only in Ukraine. But other republics have their own “green” organizations.
M: This is not a political party?
AP: This is a kind of an umbrella organization. But there is also the “Green Party”.
M: So, you have the “Green Party” and you have the “Green World,” which are separate
AP: That’s right. We have “Green Party” as well as many other “green” organizations.
M: How many members of the Ukrainian Congress are the “Green Party” members?
AP: Ukrainian “Green Party” is represented in the Soviet Parliament by its three members.
M: What about at the Ukrainian Parliament?
AP: As far as Ukrainians are concerned, there are five people there.
M: How long has the “Green World” existed? When was it created?
AP: The “Green World” was founded in 1987.
M: What was the occasion? What made people decide to create it?
AP: There were a lot of public environmental organizations here. But they tended not to get involved in politics. Our organization is of a new, democratic type. It appeared after the beginning of perestroika. So we are a public political organization of a democratic orientation and we are in opposition to the Communist Party and to the Government.
M: But tell me about some of the other organizations that belong to or are a part of the “Green World”. Did they exist before the “Green World”?
AP: We have lots and lots of different organizations taking care of different aspects of work. In every administrative region of Ukraine (and there’re twenty-five of them here) “Green World” has its representations.
M: How big is an administrative region?
AP: I guess the average size of an administrative region (“oblast” in Ukrainian) is the size of New England.
M: Presumably some of those organizations came into existence as a response to Chernobyl?
AP: Yes, our organization was founded as a response to the inability of our government to solve the problems caused by Chernobyl and to protect the rights of people after this disaster.
M: Was that equally true of the Ukrainian and the Union Government?
AP: For a long time the Ukrainian leadership had to just follow orders from Moscow and had a very limited say as far as decision making was concerned. It’s only recently, under the pressure of the democratic forces, that they began to speak out for its independence.
M: I conclude that it must be that the government didn’t have any plans for an emergency in case some accident would happen at Chernobyl. There was no organized plan to handle it. Is that correct?
AP: At that time there was not such a plan. And the Union Government tried to play down the importance of the disaster and to make the information about it secret.
M: I live in Canada. And near us there is a nuclear power plant and they have a number of rehearsals in what to do if this or that happens.
AP: Now such emergency plans are being worked out here too. But we consider them inadequate. Moreover we demand that the Chernobyl nuclear plant be completely shut down.
M: Is this the whole thing? I think there’re three different reactors?
AP: Yes, under the pressure of “greens”, especially our group, the Ukrainian Parliament has taken the decision gradually to shut down the three reactors that are still in operation.
M: And that rule was passed?
AP: The first of the three will be shut down in 1992, the last one in 1995.
M: What alternative sources of energy will be used?
AP: Now the energy generation program in Ukraine is aimed at reaching three main goals. The first one is building power stations which would use gas as a fuel. We are already buying them in Italy and Denmark.
M: Where will they be located?
AP: One is going to be built at the site which was meant for a nuclear power station. It’s in Chigirin, near Cherkassy. There will be four units there.
M: Will they be ready in time for the shutting down of Chernobyl.
AP: At the moment I cannot answer this question, for the situation in Ukraine now is very fluid. Political struggle is going on. We have this perestroika. It’s difficult to make predictions. The second goal is building new waste-water treatment facilities for already existing coal- and oil-fuelled power stations.
M: Do you have much oil in Ukraine?
AP: In Western Ukraine there are some oilfields, though this is not enough for Ukraine and we get some oil from Russia.
M: What would be the second most important issue for the “Green World”?
AP: There are several groups concerned with other issues. I’ll give you a couple of names: “The Committee for the Survival of the Dnieper-River”, “The Committee for the Survival of the Dniestr-River”.
M: Where is the Dniester?
AP: The Dniester is in Western Ukraine. It’s not far from Romania, from the Danube. The Dniester flows into the Black Sea.
M: How is the Dnieper polluted in comparison with the other major rivers? Is it really an exceedingly polluted river?
AP: The Dnieper-River is the main thoroughfare of Ukraine. There are about 35 million people living in its basin. The Dniester is also a big river. There are a few other relatively big rivers in Ukraine. And all of them are polluted. I think you have this problem in North America too. So, we see as our main task making the government pass the legislation on waste-water treatment installations and monitoring the implementation of this legislation. “Greens” are best represented in local legislative bodies (region, city, district level).
M: Can many of the problems be settled at the local level or some need to be taken care of at the republican or even at the Union level?
AP: Now local Soviets have more decision-making power than before. But “Green Party” is also represented at the parliaments of Ukraine and of the Soviet Union. And it’s not just separate members of the party. We have our lobby there which submits to the Parliament our versions of the draft bills discussed in the Parliament. And the fact that the leader of “The Green World” Mr. Yuri Shcherbak was appointed the Minister of Ecology of Ukraine makes us even more powerful.
M: So you have a lot of political support, I mean, the voters support your agenda, your program.
AP: Yes, our approval rating is very high.
M: And are they aware of the fact that ecological problems make it more difficult to develop economy?
AP: Right now the economy is in bad shape. It’s easy for us to draw public attention to ecological problems. But when the economy starts picking up maybe people will pay more attention to economic problems and less to ecological.
M: So they are satisfied now with the progress you’re making ecologically despite the economy being on the verge of collapse?
AP: Right now we are doing a lot of work to close ecologically dangerous enterprises. That means we close nuclear power plants, old gas plants. We already closed the Danube-Dnieper Canal. At the moment the government isn’t ready to deal with all the suggestions we’ve put forward. Besides, we have some commercial organizations which are working on the monitoring of some plants. We also were the initiators of the so-called “Chernobyl Trial”. It is a public campaign during which we criticize our government for its poor handling of the situation after the disaster.
M: Tell me about the connection with “Rukh”.
AP: We belong to the same democratic bloc which means we work together. “Rukh” has the highest approval rating, then comes “The Green World” and then the Communist Party.
M: And you would say that there is no significant group within the Communist Party that is really making reforms that they would support?
AP: We are absolutely against communist ideology but still we work together with communists we know to be honest people.
M: So you don’t think there’s any prospect that reforms within the Communist Party will be sufficient.
AP: Nobody has ever relinquished power voluntarily, so there will be a political fight. Gorbachev and Yeltsin are helping us in this fight.
M: So, you expect there will be a struggle?
M: When, how and what form do you expect this struggle to take?
AP: The fact that Ukrainian and Russian peoples really support democratic forces is considered to be the most important one. We think we’ve accomplished a lot. We’ve proclaimed Ukraine a sovereign nation. And this happened as a direct consequence of the wishes of the people, because now in the Ukrainian Parliament communists are in the majority.
M: Will the next election change that?
AP: Yes, we think it will change the balance in our favor.
M: So, there might not have to be such a big struggle eventually, if the Parliament has been changed through elections.
AP: That’s right. But the election process itself is a struggle, because the communists are heavily represented in all those commissions. When candidates to the Parliament of Ukraine were nominated communists blocked our nominees in a very active manner.
M: In what way?
AP: They didn’t register our candidates.
M: Do you think they will always be able to block your candidates?
AP: The political process is going on and political structures in Ukraine have changed. So I hope it will not be this way forever.
M: I talked to Alex yesterday about the “Rukh” movement and he said that they were committed to non-violent means of protest.
AP: I agree, we do a lot of demonstrating. You might have heard that we had a hunger strike of students on Khreshchatik Street in Kiev.
M: What’s the name of the place again?
AP: Actually it’s October Revolution Square [Independence Square now]. Practically on Kreshchatik Street.
M: Was that the “Rukh” demonstration, or the “Green World” demonstration?
AP: All democratic forces participated in it.
M: Did the hunger strikers got what they were demanding for?
AP: Not quite. All in all there were six demands. The Prime-Minister resigned. But one of the demands was to have the Parliament elected in a democratic manner. That hasn’t happened yet.
M: Do you expect that it will happen, I mean, will the whole strike prove to have been effective?
AP: Today we have a lot in common with the communists.
M: Who “we”?
AP: The democratic movement and communists in the Parliament are working together for independence of Ukraine.
M: Which would mean not signing the Union Treaty?
AP: Yes, for so long we’ve had a totalitarian system. No one liked it, not even communists.
M: What was your role? What had you done with your life until you became the Vice-President of “The Green World”?
AP: I’m an engineer by education. I was the Vice-President of The Scientific Research Corporation of Ukraine.
M: You don’t do that any more. You are full-time with “The Green World”?
M: What are some of the other projects that you see “The Green World” attempting in the future?
AP: The motto of “greens” is: Think globally, work locally. When we were in Odessa I found out that “greens” there were really powerful and had a lot of different projects. “Greens” are strong in many cities of Ukraine. What we think is important is that they work on projects which are vital for their particular area. And we at the republican level are trying to help local “greens” with that. We also work with the government and the Parliament of Ukraine and take part in co-ordinating political struggle.
M: Could you imagine yourself running for office some day?
AP: No. I think I could do more being in the leadership of “The Green World”.
M: My work is with the peace movement in Canada and my interest in coming here is to see the relationship of various social movements to issues of peace and disarmament.
AP: We have and association which is called “Democratic Ukraine” and we get together every week to co-ordinate our plans and work out a consensus on different issues.
M: Concerning ecology or other things?
AP: No, political issues.
M: One of the comments I heard the other day was that Ukraine is going to have its own army. If Ukraine becomes independent do you think there will be considerable investments in the military of that separate Ukraine?
AP: “Greens” by their nature are against everything which is connected with war, weapons, armies, etc. We are working for a nuclear-free Ukraine. But now democratic forces think that without a national army you can’t have an independent country. Though we believe that now in Ukraine we have at least five times as much military equipment and personnel as we need. So we’d like to see it cut.
M: Have you been in touch with other organizations that are concerned with the military issues?
AP: We work together with the Ukrainian Peace Committee.
M: In Moscow I talked to people from the organization called “Civic Peace”.
There several organizations within their umbrella organization. They work hard promoting alternative service for conscientious objectors. There’s also a group there called “Mothers of Soldiers”. Do you have any contacts with them?
AP: No. There are some organizations of that kind in Ukraine. But we don’t have any contacts with Moscow.
M: Do you have any contacts with similar organizations in Ukraine?
M: Do they support you, and do you support them?
AP: No, because our group is categorically against any military issues.
M: What about “Mothers of Soldiers”?
AP: We can’t grab on to every project. Our main issue is ecology and survival of people.
M: So you would not support an arrangement for alternative survive? In Russia Boris Yeltsin has endorsed the idea of allowing conscientious objection and giving the objectors the right to choose any form of service instead of military. I wonder, if the same issue comes up here and what “The Green World”‘s attitude to this issue is?
AP: This issue is mentioned in our Program and we discuss it frequently and continuously in our newspaper “The Green World”.
M: So, do you support the alternative service?
AP: Of course, we do.
M: Glad to hear it. Because not all the organizations do. For example, “Memorial” does not support it. [I now think this is incorrect. M.S.] Do you have “Memorial” here?
M: Tell me a little more about the size of “The Green World”.
AP: We have approximately half a million members all over Ukraine. We have a Congress of the “greens” every two years. At the Congress we elect the “Greens” Council of 60 people and then the Coordinating Committee of 20 people. But they work in public organizations. Besides, we even have our own office and a newspaper with the circulation of 30,000 copies. I’ll give you one.
M: Thank you. I’ll get one of my students in Toronto to transcribe it for me. There are a lot of Ukrainians there.
AP: There is a Ukrainian organization in Toronto. It’s called “Ecolos”. We work together.
M: There’s just one more thing I’d like to know: how much co-operation do you have with other movements outside Ukraine – in North America and Europe?
AP: “Ecolos” is an organization of Ukrainian Canadians. Myroslav Iliniak is its leader. He works at the Ministry of Ecology of Ontario.
M: After the last provincial elections ( six months ago ) the New Democratic Party formed the government of Ontario. I also belong to the New Democratic Party. But I don’t know all the ministers. By the way a lot of them are women.
AP: We also have a lot of women among our leaders. Preobrazhenskaya is one of them. She is a co-ordinator between the organization and the Government.
The workshop on the problems of nuclear testing (at Semipalatinsk and Novaya Zemlya in particular)
Groups represented: Public movement of the peoples of Siberia “We are together to survive”; “Nevada-Semipalatinsk Movement” “Civic Peace”
Speaches made by: Mikhail Brodsky, Karaganda (“Nevada-Semipalatinsk” Movement, Kazakhstan); Sergei Chernov (“Civic Peace” Association, Moscow)
Main points discussed:
- The movement “Nevada-Semipalatinsk” has been in existence for two years. Now it’s the leading group in the struggle for a nuclear-free world. It’s very simple to explain why they are so active in their struggle. Here’s an example. According to scientists the radiation released as a result of the Chernobyl disaster is equivalent to that of 90 bombs of the kind as was dropped on Hiroshima. During the 42 year period of being in operation the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site has seen 2,500 such explosions. On the 19th of October it will be 2 years since the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site got silent. But today we have another problem: the military authorities offer to pay 5 million dollars for the permission to conduct three more nuclear explosions, as they say the last ones. We consider it anti-human. Our demands are: to set up a special commission under the auspices of UNAEC; to make the government pay us 5 million rubles without any nuclear tests conducted at Semipalatinsk. On the of August there was an anniversary of the first explosion here in 1949.
We expressed our demand to stop all nuclear tests at Semipalatinsk, Novaya Zemlya and also all over the world.
- For a long time the world was divided into two major blocs – Socialist and Capitalist and the countries belonging to different blocs the socialist one, and “the image of an enemy” belong to history. So the development and production of a new, the third, generation of nuclear weapons cannot be justified.
Some people argue that nuclear weapons can ensure security of a country against outside enemies. That’s why we see how countries which don’t have nuclear weapons are seeking to get them in their possession. But there are already so many nuclear weapons in the world that even if the countries having them started making reductions immediately it would take a lot of time to finish the process. So we think that we should start immediately to show other countries possessing nuclear weapons our serious intentions. And then we can expect them reacting in the same manner. It’s my firm conviction that the situation in the world now is very favorable for disarmament. I don’t want in any way to diminish the importance of all kinds of talks and negotiations on the problem. But I’m convinced that we should act in a more energetic way than we did before. We should disarm, even if unilaterally first.