QUARANTINE AND FIRE DAYS | Vitaliy Portnykov

You also can read this article in Ukrainian by following the link | It was hard to imagine that just in April, on the 34th anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, the Chornobyl nuclear power plant would once again take top in Ukrainian and world news. Only now it is no longer in connection with the popular television series that has returned attention to Chornobyl to an international audience. And in connection with the fires in the Chornobyl exclusion zone. These fires lasted almost the entire month and were, unfortunately, man-made. So, when one day the people of Kyiv woke up, they decided to open their windows and immediately closed them because of the smell of the smoke that enveloped the city and the dust that gnashed on their teeth - you can imagine what their feelings were! These days, Kyiv has several times topped the ranking of the most polluted cities in the world, ahead of even the famous Asian metropolises. Although the authorities assured that the fires that had so changed the ecology in Kyiv raged in the Zhytomyr region, not in Chornobyl, it did not calm everyone. But even if we agree that the air pollution in the Ukrainian capital was not related to the fires in the Chornobyl area, the most important thing cannot be not noticed - the climate in Ukraine has changed significantly and the habits have remained the same. Dust storms and fires are the result of the mindless policies of recent decades and climate change. For years, forests have been cleared for development, paving roads and other urban and economic needs. They were cut down often, and often uncontrollably, without any real environmental expertise. And at the same time, the climate was changing. This winter in Ukraine was more like Southern European than Ukraine. The temperature was virtually above freezing all winter months, with no snow or rain - and now the weather is almost free of rainfall. As a result, the first strong wind simply lifted the dry soil and carried it to Kyiv - here's a dust storm. And people, of course. Forests all over Ukraine are not breaking out with fires by themselves (by the way, not only Kyiv, but also Zaporizhzhya, and the cities of the Ukrainian north were covered by the egyptian-darkness these days). They are set on fire by people - who are stupid, who are by tradition, and who willfully and intentionally, to see how firefighters and rescuers would bustle. Until recently, the fine for burning grass was minimal, and only when forests in the Chornobyl zone were already burning did parliament increase the fine. However, it should take at least some time for the perpetrators to realize that this is serious and that paying for arson will have to be much greater than for the absence of a mask in a public place (before everything was opposite: for a mask - 17,000 UAH, for arson - 1,700). Thus, one of the greenest cities in Eastern Europe has become one of the most polluted cities in the world. And at the same time, as if intentionally, during quarantine - when people who are advised to self-isolate, not to leave their apartments and have windows opened, at the same time they are advised to close the windows because of smoke. Try all of these recommendations at the same time. On the other hand, now there is a practical sense of wearing a respirator on the street - if it wouldn’t protect against the coronavirus, at least it will help from smoke and dust. And it will be reminded that not only the coronavirus can be an invisible foe. However, why invisible? If you do not see the virus itself, then it’s economic consequences are visible without a microscope. The other day, the Ukrainian government approved a plan to come out of the quarantine for the country. If the disease statistics are satisfactory - that is, under the most optimistic scenario - the country will be able to return to normal life by June. But not completely. Thus, only May 31 can be tentatively restored the work of the Kyiv subway (and, apparently, the subways in other large cities, Kharkiv and Dnipro). But even then - only for special transportation based on passes. And this can already be considered progress in a situation where public transportation is restricted by several special routes. The authorities' fears about a possible spike in the coronavirus incidence are explainable. And in this sense, the plan for coming out of quarantine is clear. However, there is no obvious plan for the recovery of the Ukrainian economy - except that the state budget has to be cut, which this year will have be done more than once. In Ukraine, unlike the United States and the leading European countries, there is no money to inject into the economy. Even more, the very survival of the country now depends on the assistance of foreign financial institutions. And Parliament has not yet been able to pass a law that would prevent national banks from returning them to their former owners. To put it simply - the return of Privat-Bank to oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi. For the sake of this law, they even had to rewrite the regulations and get rid of the thousands of amendments that were submitted by lobbyists of Kolomoyskyi's influence after the law was approved in the first reading. But without the final approval of the law and the signature of President Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine will not receive assistance from the IMF and will not be able to settle its debts. This means - default, the collapse of the national currency, inflation, surge in prices, poverty... But even if the resistance of the almighty Kolomoyskyi can be overcome, it will not only soften the blow, but will not save the Ukrainian economy from difficulties. Even with IMF money. Already, many Ukrainians on quarantine, we could observe, are living on their last resources. Not all of them get paid, many are on unpaid leave. There are big problems for those who own personal business in the service industry. Tourist business, shops (except groceries), restaurants, cafes, workshops, hairdressers, beauty salons, gyms and more - all of this just doesn't work. And there is a big question whether they will open after the quarantine. And if it opens, will it be able to make a profit, retain the were clients before the crisis. After all, it is not only the permission to work, but also the purchasing power of the population. And it is decreasing every day. And it may be that you will now pay your rent and try to keep at least some of your employees. And then the quarantine will end and no one will come to your restaurant or shop... Add to this those who have worked abroad all these years but have been forced to return to Ukraine because of the quarantine in neighboring countries. Will these people be able to return to work - even if their services are needed? When will the borders of the European Union be opened? Will work visas be available? Will local workers take the place of foreign workers, who will be out of work and ready for less prestigious and lucrative pursuits? These are all questions to which no one has an answer yet. Yes, not only in Ukraine, but all over the world. But in the Ukrainian context, the lack of response is linked to the possible social and political instability and the continuation of the war with neighboring Russia, which is ready to do its best to destabilize our country. Only one thing is clear - and President Volodymyr Zelensky said this: Ukrainians need to survive in this situation. But the president has not yet explained how to survive.

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