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LONDON, 9 September 2019 – The Honorary Ambassador of the ATOM Project (Abolish Testing. Our Mission) Karipbek Kuyukov is visiting the United Kingdom as part of commemorations for the International Day against Nuclear Tests organised by the Embassy of Kazakhstan in the UK, with the support of the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND).
A briefing and opening of an exhibition of paintings by Mr. Kuyukov took place at Parliament after a joint seminar with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), dedicated to Kazakhstan ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
Parliament members, representatives of the British Foreign Office, the diplomatic corps and the media, business executives, artists, as well as Kazakhs working and studying in the UK were among those who attended the events.
The speakers at the briefing and the exhibition opening included Mr. Kuyukov; member of the House of Lords and PNND Co-President Baroness Susan Miller; member of the House of Commons and Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Kazakhstan Bob Stewart MP; and the Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the UK Erlan Idrissov.
Mr. Kuyukov spoke about the disastrous consequences of the nuclear tests conducted in Kazakhstan from 1949 to 1991, and called on everyone to sign the ATOM Project’s online petition calling on world leaders to ban nuclear tests.
“I believe that together we can achieve our common goal – the complete ban on nuclear weapons. And maybe this will sound naive, but as a person who has seen with his own eyes the families where children with diseases were born, where children died, I would want to be the last victim of nuclear weapons and nuclear tests,” Mr. Kuyukov said.
Baroness Miller commended Kazakhstan’s nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation initiatives, including the resolution proposed by the country and unanimously supported by the UN General Assembly in 2009 to proclaim 29 August as the International Day against Nuclear Tests.
It was on this day in 1949 that the first nuclear bomb was tested at the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site, and on the same day in 1991, that test site was closed by the decree of Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was then President of Kazakhstan, which had not yet gained independence.
“Kazakhstan should be particularly commended for bringing home in such a real way the humanitarian consequences of testing and of nuclear war, because you got the UN, including the UK, to unanimously support the establishment of this day, which is a major step on the road to recognising the absolutely disgusting nature of the most inhumane weapon you can imagine,” Baroness Miller stressed.
She also spoke about the initiatives PNND is undertaking to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons, in which Kazakhstan is also taking an active part. This includes the ratification of the TPNW, the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, and the Stepping Stones initiative led by Sweden and 15 other countries, including Kazakhstan, which aims to engage nuclear states to make progress on their disarmament obligations under international law.
Ambassador Idrissov emphasised the deteriorating political situation across the world. The lack of confidence between nuclear powers, the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, the growing tension on the Korean peninsula and the unclear fate of the Iranian nuclear deal are of deep concern, said the Kazakh diplomat.
“Under these circumstances, we need to assess the global risks and combine efforts to eliminate them. We need to think about what our heritage will be for generations to come. That is why achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world has become our core international goal,” said Ambassador Idrissov.
He also noted that Kazakhstan’s path from a possessor of the fourth largest nuclear arsenal in the world to a nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation champion could be an example for others to follow.
At a seminar to celebrate Kazakhstan ratifying the TPNW, Mr. Kuyukov and Ambassador Idrissov spoke alongside CND General Secretary Kate Hudson and CND Patron and poet Anthony Owen.
“The introduction of the United Nations’ treaty to ban all nuclear weapons has been a ground-breaking achievement, and the work that Kazakhstan has done to help bring this about is of the utmost importance,” said Ms. Hudson.
The CND General Secretary also highlighted that Kazakhstan managed to transform the immense suffering inflicted by nuclear weapons testing at Semipalatinsk into a determination to learn from these tragic experiences and shed light on the consequences and initiate action against nuclear tests.
Mr. Owen in turn moved the audience with his poem about the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons and nuclear tests. The poet also presented Mr. Kuyukov with his latest collection of poems, two letters from Hiroshima survivors and a peace gift from Coventry Cathedral, accompanied by a letter from Dean John Witcombe.
During his trip to the UK, Mr. Kuyukov will also visit Edinburgh, where he will speak at the Scottish Parliament and meet with the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education in Scotland, John Swinney MSP.
Mr. Kuyukov will also exhibit his paintings in Manchester, where he will meet with the Lord Mayor of Manchester, Councillor Abid Latif Chohan, and speak at a seminar hosted by the Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) and UK & Ireland Mayors, Provosts and Leaders for Peace Chapter. The theme of the seminar will be “Humanitarian impacts, costs and dangers of nuclear weapons in the campaign for peace”.
Note to editors: The ATOM Project (Abolish Testing. Our Mission) is an international campaign that has an ultimate goal of achieving a world free of nuclear testing. The initiative was proposed by the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Elbasy Nursultan Nazarbayev in 2012. In practical terms, the ATOM Project proposes signing an online petition calling on world leaders to ban nuclear testing.
Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) is a non-partisan forum for parliamentarians nationally and internationally to share resources and information, develop cooperative strategies and engage in nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament issues, initiatives and arenas.
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is an organisation that advocates unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United Kingdom, international nuclear disarmament and tighter international arms regulation through agreements such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It opposes military action that may result in the use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and the building of nuclear power stations in the UK.