A Fife man, who helped secure the freedom of Europe during the Cold War, is amongst British nuclear test veterans describing the Russian invasion of Ukraine as “particularly heartbreaking”.
Dave Whyte, of Kirkcaldy, who blames his exposure to the fallout from five British atomic and hydrogen bomb blasts at Christmas Island in 1958 for a catalogue of health problems, said the Ukrainian people deserve all help possible.
British atomic test veterans loyally served the UK from 1952 to 1967.
They played an important role during the Cold War which eventually led to the collapse of Soviet communism in 1989.
Many veterans say exposure to radiation during British atomic bomb tests in the South Pacific led to a legacy of ill-health which the British authorities denied.
Empathy with Ukrainians
However, Britain’s test veterans have also long empathized with the people of Ukraine since the Chernobyl nuclear power station disaster of 1986.
Soviet scientists, bureaucrats and civilians documented staggering increases in cases of birth defects, child mortality, cancers and a multitude of life-altering diseases years after the disaster in Ukraine and elsewhere.
But the Soviet authorities attempted to cover up the scale of the disaster.
“It would appear that Chernobyl is in the news again,” said Dave, 85, whose health problems over the years include the loss of all his teeth at 25 and the discovery in his mid-30s that he was sterile.
“It appears the Russians have disturbed the area around the reactors and caused a leak of radiation.
“I do not agree with Putin ordering his troops to attack a sovereign country and liken it to our service personnel being ordered to attend the nuclear detonations.
“The service personnel knew nothing about the dangers of radiation, very similar to the Russian soldiers not being told why they were attacking Ukraine.”
Speaking on behalf of the Combined History Archive of Nuclear Veterans, nuclear test veteran Dennis Hayden said the “brave Ukrainian people and their lion-hearted President Volodymyr Zelensky deserve all help possible”.
“The stakes are high in the Russian war of aggression against the Ukrainian people,” he said.
“If Putin and his generals are found to have indiscriminately used tactical thermo-baric missile systems, airdropped cluster bombs, any chemical/biological weapons or depleted uranium tank or bunker penetrating shells against the people of Ukraine they are guilty of crimes against humanity.
“He and those who planned the unprovoked invasion of an independent self-governing state must be indicted and tried in person or in absentia at the Hague International Criminal Court.
“This unprincipled and unprovoked attack reveals many legacies from past history.
“The brave Ukrainian people have been betrayed many times in their history from the 1930s to date and must not be allowed to return to subjugation under brutal rule of Vladimir Putin’s communist Russia.
“A new ‘Iron Curtain‘ is in process of descending across Europe which is aimed to replace borders again to those of the former 1989 bankrupted Soviet Union.
“For all freedom loving people in Europe and the world, this must not be allowed to succeed.
“For atomic test veterans, who loyally served the United Kingdom and suffered legacy ill health, premature deaths and genetic damage to help secure the freedom of Europe during the Cold war and the collapse of Soviet communism in 1989, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a particular heartbreaking event to be taking place in 2022.”
Zaporizhzhia nuclear fire
In the early hours of Friday morning, Russia took control of a nuclear power station in Ukraine after it was hit by shelling.
A fire broke out at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant – the largest in Europe – and Ukraine said it was shelled by Russian troops.
Authorities say the facility is now safe and radiation levels are normal.
World leaders have accused Russia of endangering the safety of an entire continent, and Ukraine’s president accused Russia of “nuclear terror”.