Reflections on Ukraines Independence Day
Today (August 24, 2022), is Independence Day in Ukraine. Under current circumstances, Ukrainians could be forgiven for exuberant displays of nationalism as they celebrate their 31st year of sovereignty. And yet, even with the gratitude and appreciation for all the country has achieved, it remains under attack six months after the most recent Russian invasion began.
Despite the national emergency, Ukraine still has a functioning government unlike the UK, but thats another story with plenary sessions of the Parliament (the Verkhovna Rada), meetings of Parliamentary committees, consultations with the electorate and Ministers and civil servants still overseeing the work of seventeen ministries. One of the legislative bills, entitled: On the Public Health System (no. 4142), now progressing through Parliament contains a proposal calling for a comprehensive and immediate asbestos ban; the language in Article 27 is categorical:
The production and use of asbestos, regardless of the type, as well as asbestos-containing products and materials, is prohibited in technological processes and in the implementation of construction and installation work at any facilities. Safety measures and protection against the harmful effects of asbestos and materials and products containing asbestos are determined by state health regulations.1
In recent weeks there has been a very public tit-for-tat in the media between Ukrainian parliamentarians and independent journalists2 defending the draft ban and industry lobbyists hoping to forestall it. It is noteworthy that recent pro-asbestos diatribes have been voiced by a lobbyist from an asbestos trade group the Ukrainian Chrysotile [White Asbestos] Association Petr Pozharko. The use of a local industry spokesperson is something new. In the past, the interests of asbestos stakeholders were represented by Kazakh Government officials and businessmen, no doubt working closely with Russian allies. Under the current circumstances the interference of outside parties was, no doubt, adjudged to be politically inexpedient.
Earlier this month Mikhail Radutsky, head of Ukraines National Health Committee, confirmed that the asbestos ban was indeed under attack:
Russian bot farms are working. Again, they are spreading many myths that have nothing to do with the text of the bill. The narratives are very similar to the theses of the Kremlins propagandists. Some manufacturers of building materials that use asbestos are helping the enemy to engage in sabotage. After all, the document finally prohibits harmful [asbestos] production, as they did in almost all countries of the world, even fascist Russia.3
Propaganda and disinformation spread by the anti-ban cabal include statements that all asbestos roofing in the country will have to be removed (untrue), there will be mass unemployment at the Kramatorsky Asbestos Roofing Company (disingenuous), exposure to chrysotile asbestos is not harmful to human health (untrue), and there is no international law or treaty obliging Ukraine to ban asbestos (misleading: to comply with requirements for joining the EU, Ukraine must adopt its health and safety standards including a ban on asbestos).
In a lengthy interview published on August 14, 2022 in which Pozharko rehashed discredited industry propaganda, it was argued that because of the vast destruction of Ukraines built environment even more Russian asbestos would be needed in the reconstruction. The fact that Russia was public enemy number 1 was conveniently side-stepped by Pozharko.4 Concluding the interview, the lobbyist said: Now is definitely not the time to ban such material [asbestos roofing] that is necessary for ordinary Ukrainians.
Two days after Pozharkos asbestos infomercial appeared, an article entitled Why the Verkhovna Rada should ban asbestos explained that Parliaments concern for public health was a civilizational choice:
Surprisingly, even such a situation as using or not using asbestos can become a marker of civilizational choice. On the one hand, there are scientific studies, the position of the WHO and other authoritative medical organizations. On the other hand, the world leaders in asbestos production are Russia and Kazakhstan, which are lobbying for their interests contrary to world practice and common sense.
As we have already seen, for Russia, the safety of even their own citizens is worth almost nothing. Ukraine chose the opposite path. Our priorities should include the life and health of citizens as the greatest value for the state.5
On August 18, a truncated version of the Pozharko interview referenced above was uploaded to yet another Ukrainian website.6
Support for Ukraines efforts to ban asbestos have been forthcoming from international agencies, national governments, global labor federations, national trade union organizations, international Parliamentarians, medical associations and others. There can be little doubt that they would all agree that outlawing asbestos use is indeed a civilizational choice. The asbestos lobby can shout and yell all it wants; no one is listening!
August 24, 2022
1 Kazan-Allen, L. The Fight for Ukraine Sovereignty over its Asbestos Policy. September 21, 2021.
2 Депутат рассказала, почему в Украине хотят запретить использование асбеста в строительстве
[MP tells why Ukraine wants to ban the use of asbestos in construction]. August 20, 2022.
3 ВР під час війни вирішила заборонити найдешевше покриття для дахів [During the war VR [Verkhovna Rada] decided to ban the cheapest roof covering]. August 4, 2022.
4 Петро Пожарко: Жоден міжнародний документ не зобов'язує Україну заборонити використання азбесту [Petr Pozharko: No international document obliges Ukraine to ban the use of asbestos]. August 14, 2022
5 Shulyak, O. Чому Верховна Рада має заборонити азбест [Why the Verkhovna Rada should ban asbestos]. August 16, 2022.
6 Ініціатори заборони хризотилового азбесту спираються на фейки та маніпуляції, - експерт [The initiators of the ban on chrysotile asbestos rely on fakes and manipulations, the expert said]. August 18, 2022.