KIEV (Kyodo) Money Japan paid Ukraine in 2009 to purchase greenhouse gas emission rights from Kiev was diverted away from environmental investments, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said Wednesday.

Yanukovych made the remarks at a news conference in Kiev with the Japanese media ahead of his visit to Japan from Tuesday. He said the diversion, which broke a Kyoto Protocol commitment, took place under Ukraine’s former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko.

But Yanukovych stressed that the money was replenished last May with a different governmental budget and expressed Ukraine’s readiness to carry out a new round of emission rights transactions with Japan.

Yanukovych’s remarks have yet again highlighted the Japanese government’s leniency in dealing with the transaction, as Tokyo has not shifted its stance that the payment, totaling 290 million euro (¥31.6 billion), has not been misappropriated.

Yanukovych said the former Ukrainian government used a portion of the payment for purposes not originally intended, and criticized Tymoshenko and others for being careless and irresponsible.

Tymoshenko, who has been accused of ordering the misappropriation, has criticized the probe as politically motivated, a tone echoed by the United States. However, Yanukovych said the steps were taken in accordance with the country’s laws and denied the existence of ulterior motives.

The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, a Japanese government entity responsible for the transaction, is set to drop the diversion issue, saying the Japanese side has not suffered any actual damage and there is no need to take legal action.

The Green Investment Scheme, an international framework of emissions quota trading under the Kyoto Protocol, leaves contractual breach issues to the discretion of the parties involved and is not capable of verifying the use of money.

Tohoku Electric Power Co. and Chubu Electric Power Co. have also bought emission rights from Ukraine. Some have voiced concerns that such private entities may not be capable of monitoring whether their payments are actually being used for environmental purposes by a foreign government.

At the same news conference, Yanukovych also said the level of radioactive contamination has dropped in areas around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, site of a 1986 reactor meltdown, and the government is reviewing the extent of polluted areas with a possibility of allowing some residents to return.

Yanukovych also said work has begun to put a fresh covering on the No. 4 reactor, which exploded, to contain radioactive materials, but the project is running short of finances. He said Ukraine has called on relevant countries to supply additional funds.

Yanukovych is planning to hold a summit between countries involved in the disaster on its 25th anniversary in April.

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