Ukraine's weather forecast: expect severe political storms

Reporter says fine weather compensated for the injustice, lawlessness and chaos rife in the country

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The Independent Online

Ukraine's fractured political climate has in recent years led to fist-fights in parliament, thousands of protesters pitching tents in Kiev's main square, and topless women protesting on the streets. Indeed, in this deeply divided country, the weather forecast was one of the few places where Ukrainians could expect a respite from politics.

Not any more: one of the country's best known weather forecasters has caused a scandal after turning the evening weather forecast into a political diatribe.

Lyudmila Savchenko heads the forecasting division of Ukraine's meteorological service, and her daily weather reports made her a well-known voice. But her bosses decided she overstepped the mark last week, when she suggested that a spell of good weather was compensation for Ukrainian's dire political leadership.

"One cannot remain indifferent to this beauty which shows in the tender scent of lilac and lily of the valley and the melodious trilling of the birds," she said, reading the weather on Ukrainian national radio earlier this week. "At times it seems that such miraculous days are a gift from nature to compensate us for the chaos, lawlessness and injustice which reigns in our country." In case anyone had not got the full gist, she continued: "It is simply incomprehensible that anyone can dislike this paradise on earth, this country, the Ukrainian people so much that they treat it so badly."

Ukraine is a country divided, broadly speaking, between a Russian-speaking east that favours close relations with Russia, and a Ukrainian-speaking west that would like to see more European integration. In the Orange Revolution of 2004-5, thousands of Western-leaning Ukrainians protested against rigged elections and brought the pro-European government of Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko into power. But the government became mired in scandal and infighting, and was unable to improve the economic situation in the country.

Then last year, the presidency was won by Viktor Yanukovych, the politician the Orange Revolution had tried to unseat. Ms Savchenko's diatribe was against Mr Yanukovych's government, which critics accuse of being mired in corruption and inefficiency.

Ms Savchenko has not been fired, but the weather forecasts will now be pre-recorded rather than broadcast live.

"I knew that they wouldn't let me broadcast live any more, but I wanted to make my position known, and I don't regret it," Ms Savchenko said. But she was criticised by the deputy director of Ukrainian National Radio, Roman Tchaikovsky: "If a person is talking about the weather, he or she should be objective, qualified, and sharp – but they should limit themselves to talking about the weather," he said.

The case has become a talking point, with Mr Yanukovych's political rivals getting involved. Ms Tymoshenko, the former prime minister, called for Ms Savchenko to be returned to the airwaves. "We give Lyudmila Savchenko the warmest compliments," wrote Ms Tymoshenko on Twitter. "It has again become heroic just to tell the truth."