December 14 is the Day of honoring the participants in the liquidation of the consequences of the Chornobyl disaster. Officials, like every year, will talk a lot about how grateful they are to the liquidators for sacrificing their lives and health for the welfare of the entire people. But not only the participants in the terrible events of April 26, 1986, but also those who, as a result of the accident, became orphans and widows, no longer believe in the sincerity of the events held on this day.
Apart from honoring the liquidators who have passed away and occasionally rewarding those who are still alive, for many of the latter, there is no fair social security. But it would be the best gratitude for them.
"They will come, put flowers at the monument to the victims and liquidators, and everything will end there. It's just a show. It is better to do something for people in need. There are those who have earned a state award with an additional payment of at least 100-200 hryvnias to security," says Ihor Filipenko, a liquidator of the second category.
Struggle for legal payments
Numerous violations of the rights of victims of the consequences of the accident have been observed for several years. Ukrainians have repeatedly sued the Pension Fund and the governments regarding the amount of accruals, as well as for the rights to benefits and compensation, which they began to be provided only by choice.
Initially, decent pensions were prescribed for the Chornobyl victims. If the law was implemented, they would receive from 370 USD to 640 USD per month. But by the decree of the Cabinet of Ministers for Chornobyl victims of the first category, pensions, taking into account allowances, were artificially limited to a link to the subsistence level for disabled persons. For the first category, this is 285%, that is, the amount of 200 USD per month. Persons of the second category can receive a maximum of 255% (180 USD), the third - 225% (160 USD).
The Chornobyl liquidators achieved payment of even these cut funds with blood and sweat. In 2011, pensions for Chornobyl victims were untied from the subsistence level, which had not been revised for a long time, and tied to specific additional payments.
Subsequently, for the Chornobyl victims, this decision turned out to be even sadder, because these additional payments have not been revised since 2016. The Ukrainians had to prove their right to payments in the courts.
"Everything was aimed at simply sending people to the courts. The decisions were not enforced in the future, allegedly due to the lack of funds in the state budget," lawyer Rostyslav Kravets comments.
Even in the amendments to the law on the state budget for 2011, it was spelled out that payments are made depending on the availability of money in the treasury. Former Deputy Minister of Social Policy Vitaly Muzychenko directly confirmed that there are problems with the implementation of social guarantees.
Some Chornobyl victims say that 160-180 USD are paid. And many remained at a broken trough and can only count on more modest amounts. The courts at one time refused them to appeal the amount of payments, referring to laws that were later declared unconstitutional. There is no review of decisions in their cases.
The Ministry of Social Policy in 2020 reported that for the 1st category of liquidators the average pension is 340 USD, for the 2nd category – 80 USD, for the 3rd category – 70 USD, who received disability in connection with the Chornobyl disaster, the pension was 100 USD.
Lawyers say that many Chornobyl victims do not see such payments in practice. According to them, the Ministry of Social Policy has not fully complied with the requirements of 543 resolutions on the worthy recalculation of pensions for military liquidators. So from this category, human rights defenders still receive calls asking for help in restoring justice.
Thousands of decisions of national courts, the decision of the European Court of Human Rights "Burmich and Others v. Ukraine", the decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine No. 6-r of 17.07.2018, in particular, according to one of the decisions of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, the pension was to reach almost 1,300 USD for the first category of liquidators, 1,000 USD - for the second, 900 USD for the third. Alas, the government ignored this decision - just like the fact that the Constitutional Court (KSU) recognized the cancellation of benefits for the 4th category of victims as illegal.
New increase in pensions from Zelensky
When the Cabinet of Ministers approved a lower disability pension for Chornobyl victims than was guaranteed by law, the KSU recognized this as a narrowing of the rights of citizens, and also called the very fact that the Cabinet determined the minimum amount of disability pensions contrary to the law. In its decision, the court indicated the special status of the victims of the Chornobyl disaster and recalled their enhanced social protection in accordance with the Constitution.
In July, the authorities finally became concerned with the issue of pensions for Chornobyl victims with disabilities. According to the calculations of Minister of Social Policy Lazebna, from the new year, the increase in pensions for them will be up to 40%. The minimum limit of 210 USD is set for the 1st group of disability, 180 USD - for the 2nd group, 140 USD - for the 3rd.
In the 2022 budget, in connection with this recalculation, an additional 100 million was pledged to the Chornobyl victims. But it cannot be said that this year is an auction of unprecedented generosity for Chornobyl victims, especially if we compare how much was allocated in 2013 with the planned amount. Then the share of payments for Chornobyl victims in the overall structure was 0.6%, and in 2022 it will be 0.2%, that is, three times less. At the same time, expenditures on the state apparatus are growing.
And the main thing is that liquidators without disabilities cannot count on an increase in payments. What is the reason for this selectivity is not entirely clear. After all, the fact that the liquidator did not earn a disability does not mean that the state owes him nothing. Although the fact that 33,000 Chornobyl victims will receive improved support is a positive signal, on a global scale, this is not enough. Indeed, at the beginning of the year, the number of victims was 1,718 million people. By the way, even if there is evidence, it is difficult to fix the connection between disability and the consequences of work at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, but we will return to this later.
Liquidator Igor Filipenko served in military unit 5403 and was at the scene of the accident in the first hours. He says that only a platoon has survived from his regiment so far. According to Filipenko, his pension is 70 USD a month.
Treatment, nutrition, and other benefits
Chornobyl victims have actually lost their right to a free car, free train and plane tickets. But these are far from the main problems, because the state provides even basic benefits carelessly or does not provide them at all.
Law No. 76-VIII, even under Poroshenko, after the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, abolished free sanatorium vouchers and compensations for vacation vouchers for citizens classified in categories 2 and 3, migrants and workers of the exclusion zone. For those who still have the right to it, because in connection with the accident they received a disability, it is becoming more and more difficult to obtain sanatorium-resort treatment.
The payment for health improvement is ridiculous - it is only 4 USD per year. In order to get it, you must write an application every year. Compensation arrears for today already amount to 520,000 USD.
Funding for the network of medical institutions for Chornobyl victims is, to put it mildly, insufficient. With the pandemic, the problem has only worsened. For example, in the Kyiv Radiation Protection Center, which dealt with patients with the consequences of an accident at a nuclear power plant, only coronavirus patients are treated. Moreover, in the updated charter of the center, the clause on Chornobyl victims was completely removed: in connection with the medical reform, the hospital will no longer be highly specialized. And free drugs remain as such only on paper.
"For 35 years, I have never received free drugs. Money is allocated for them, but there is not enough for all of them. Once at 2 am we were queuing up at the pharmacy to get the drugs, but we could not do it," says Igor Filipenko.
Payments for improving nutrition, or "coffin", as they are popularly called, have not been indexed for many years and have not increased to a decent size. Chornobyl resident Oleksandr Baidak tells 112ua.tv: payments have not changed since 2005. The first category receives 10 USD UAH, the second – 5 USD. Only in 2005 it was 50 and 35 dollars, respectively, and now - 7 and 3.5 dollars. -10 times. Moreover: Chornobyl victims say that these amounts are being delayed.
The Cabinet of Ministers promised to think over the issue of increasing the size of all these compensations and assistance for health improvement, but they never did it.
Pensions and benefits still need to be earned
Igor Filipenko says that since 2019, the liquidators have already been checked three times by commissions at regional state administrations. Representatives of the first category have already begun to change their IDs. Checking documents that are 30 years old should make it possible to determine whether they were legally issued documents.
“Of course, there are people who bought these Chornobyl certificates. And the state itself takes advantage of this, forcing Chornobyl victims to go through three or four circles of hell, to prove that they were there," says lawyer Rostislav Kravets.
Drivers, for example, are asked to provide waybills from enterprises that have not existed for a long time. It is becoming more and more difficult to obtain the status of a victim of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant.