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NUR-SULTAN – The human losses caused by the nuclear weapons era include not only the hundreds of thousands who died in Hiroshima or Nagasaki, or the constant threat to civilisation created by the accumulation of these deadly weapons. It is also reflected in the ongoing suffering of millions of people who continue to be affected by nuclear weapons tests.
The ATOM Project and its Honorary Ambassador Karipbek Kuyukov are urging people around the world to observe a moment of silence on 29 August – the International Day against Nuclear Tests established by the United Nations (UN) – in memory of all victims of nuclear weapons tests.
Kuyukov would like people around the world to observe a moment of silence at 11:05 local time. This was chosen because at that time the clock hands form the Roman letter “V”, which symbolises victory. A moment of silence and a symbol of victory is a tribute to those who have suffered, and a call to the international community to continue striving for victory over the threat of nuclear weapons.
“Nuclear weapons tests in Kazakhstan and around the world have caused untold suffering,” said Kuyukov. “The suffering of these victims continues today. Their struggle cannot be forgotten. It is a great honour for me that my country urged the United Nations to declare 29 August as the International Day against Nuclear Tests. And I urge people around the world to devote a moment of silence on this day in memory of those who have suffered and continue to suffer.”
For decades, countries developing nuclear weapons have tested such weapons around the world. From the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in what is now Kazakhstan, to Nevada and New Mexico in the United States, to the atolls of the Marshall Islands and French Polynesia, countless people have been affected by these tests.
The consequences are still felt today by those who lived in the affected regions and by those born long after, in the form of birth defects, debilitating diseases, and early death.
The people of Kazakhstan experienced more than 450 Soviet nuclear tests near the modern city of Semey. Kuyukov's parents were among those affected, and as a result, he was born without arms. But, despite these difficulties, he became a famous artist and an internationally recognised nuclear disarmament activist. He devoted his art to capturing images of victims of nuclear weapons tests, and his life to the work of eliminating their threat.
Kazakhstan has also become a world leader in the non-proliferation movement and an example for other countries. Shortly after Kazakh independence, First President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced that the country would renounce the fourth largest nuclear arsenal in the world, inherited from the Soviet Union.
In 2009, on Kazakhstan’s initiative, the UN declared 29 August as the International Day against Nuclear Tests, in honour of the day in 1991 when President Nazarbayev closed the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, even before the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“Let us proclaim 29 August as a day of recognition that the suffering associated with nuclear weapons continues even when bombs are not dropped, and that we must strive for a definitive cessation of nuclear weapons tests as a first step towards a world free of nuclear weapons,” said Kuyukov.