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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ukraine Dismisses West's Y2K Jitters




KIEV -- Ukrainian officials are dismissing U.S. and Western concerns about possible effects of the year 2000 computer glitch on their country, saying the former Soviet republic was well prepared to deal with the problem.


"We are not afraid of the catastrophic consequences that people are forecasting us so persistently,'' said Ukraine's national security chief, Volodymyr Horbulin.


"Computers have not infiltrated our lives that deeply, and it would be slightly easier for us than for the heavily computerized nations,'' he added.


The government has formed a commission to address the problem, but that has failed to alleviate the concerns.


Recent warnings have included a British Foreign Office report advising against nonessential travel to Ukraine around the new year period. The warning said the glitch could affect the finance, banking, transport, power and social sectors in the country.


The U.S. State Department said last month that Ukraine "appears to be unprepared'' to confront the Y2K bug and warned of "a risk of potential disruption in all key sectors, especially the energy and electric services.''


These worries have prompted U.S. Ambassador Steven Pifer to discuss the issue with Ukrainian officials, who in turn have promised to allow American government experts to examine all vital energy facilities, including nuclear power plants.


The warnings ring ominously in Ukraine, which was the site of the world's worst nuclear accident - the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl atomic power plant - and runs a total of 14 working reactors at five nuclear power plants.


Nuclear officials, however, long have been saying that the plants will not suffer any malfunctions or shutdowns on Jan. 1, 2000, adding that their computer systems were nearly fully immunized against the millennium bug.


"The Y2K problem does not exist for us,'' Vissarion Kim, the executive director of the state nuclear energy company Energoatom, said recently. "We are completing the work required to ensure normal operation with the arrival of the year 2000.''


Computers that affect the operation of reactors should not be prone to the Y2K bug by their nature, as they do not operate in real time, according to Kim. Plant technicians, he said, needed to reprogram only those computers that were not directly involved in electricity production.


Computers at Chernobyl had been reprogrammed and successfully tested by international nuclear experts, Ukrainian officials say.


Aviation computer systems ensuring flight safety were 90 percent ready for the year 2000, Yaroslav Skalko, first deputy chief of Ukraine's State Aviation Administration, told a news conference last week.


He acknowledged, however, that Ukraine would limit the number of flights during the "critical period'' to follow recommendations of international aviation bodies, and said 50 percent of computer equipment at Ukrainian air companies and airports needed to be either replaced or modernized.


Those systems are used for administration purposes and are not linked to flight safety, Skalko noted.


Overall, "the measures taken by the government ... allow us to say that we are prepared to confront the year 2000 problem with a certain degree of confidence,'' said Horbulin, the security chief.