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Whether this particular issue is linked with Honcharenko’s
murder should be the subject of scrupulous investigation.
Honcharenko, a member of the Academy of Engineering Sciences and head of the nongovernmental
organization For Citizens’ Rights to a Safe Environment, is likely to have made
other enemies through this hard-hitting and substantiated reports on
radioactive, lead and chemical contamination, the quality of drinking water and
more. He was critical of those willing to risk public health and safety for
personal gain, as well as  criminal negligence by officials who looked
the other way. 

On the other hand there has been silence over the scandal
reported by Honcharenko on July 27 and now his voice has been silenced forever.
It is for the authorities to now demonstrate willingness to put an end to the
silence and the impunity this generates. 

There needs to be a real willingness to uncover and punish those responsible, not an imitation — as seen in the “news” recently that the two-year-old murder of journalist Vasyl Klymentyev
had been “solved.”

The name of the key suspect and the fact that he had
been placed on the wanted list had been revealed early in 2011, making the whole
exercise seem disturbingly aimed at misleading the public and fabricating
non-existent achievements. At the press conference on July 27, Volodymyr
Honcharenko warned of highly toxic heat exchangers which environmentalists fear
could be mixed with other scrap metal and sold, possibly abroad.

The heat exchangers come originally from Kalusz in
Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, and contain huge levels of the chemical hexachlorbenzol.
They were sold illicitly in 2005 to Ukr-Euro Ltd., which in 2008 tried to palm
them off to a public stock company. This and later efforts have foundered
because of the hazardous nature of the metal. 

Officials and those with a vested interest can be as
silent as they like but every time workers have been given the material for
cutting, they have ended up in hospital. This has then led to the frighteningly
dangerous material being transported by truck through Kryvy Rih by a company
with no transportation permit and in heat-wave conditions.

Honcharenko believed that the plan was to
cut up the heat exchangers and mix small amounts with scrap metal, while
probably burying the remains of the hexachlorbenzol in one of the quarries of the
Saksahansk district. He warned that the likely site for cutting the heat
exchangers was next to a reservoir which provides Kryvy Rih with drinking
water. 

Dnipropetrovsk is of interest to metal traders because
there is a freight port where metal is exported abroad. Turkey has already
complained once, in 2011, that metal received from Ukraine was
radioactive. 

We can assume that other countries will not wish to
turn a blind eye to such hazardous and criminal behaviour.  Public attention is needed to ensure that
neither Honcharenko’s murder nor the danger he exposed are quietly
ignored.

Halya Coynash
is a member of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group
.

 

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