Ukraine is using water as a weapon for harassment of Russian forces in Crimea. Stoppage of water is a part of Ukraine’s efforts to evict the Russians out of the Crimean peninsula and individual districts in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The Deputy Prime Minister Reznikov has repeatedly stated that the Russian Federation will not receive water for the temporarily occupied Crimea from mainland Ukraine, even by force.
“The more the Russian Federation builds military bases in the Crimea, the less water will remain for the needs of the civilian population. Russia, as an occupying power, must be fully aware of its responsibility,” said the Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko to the National News Agency of Ukraine or Ukrinform.
Crimea water resources
Crimea has just 14 internal reservoirs and most of them are partly filled from the sediment and from water coming from the mountains. The reservoirs are currently filled due to the rains. In the absence of rains, the water is nearly sufficient for the households.
At the beginning of the Russian occupation in Crimea, there were sufficient supplies of water coming to the peninsula from mainland Ukraine through the North Crimean canal. It was used mainly in agriculture and industry. The North Crimean Canal with water intake from the Kakhovka Reservoir was specially built in the lower reaches of the Dnieper River. The canal starts from the Kakhovka reservoir, passes through the Perekop isthmus, goes past Dzhankoy, and further to the southeast, reaching the outskirts of Kerch. The canal has a total length of 402.6 km and the length within Crimea is 294 km. Up to 85% of Crimea’s freshwater needs were met through the North Crimean Canal.
But with the beginning of the occupation, the channels of some rivers were overturned and the groundwater extracted to fill reservoirs to service Russian military equipment. There was also the migration of Russians to Crimea. This led to a water shortage in Crimea.
Crimea’s envoy to the Russian president and deputy prime minister of the republic’s government, Georgy Muradov, said in an interview with the Izvestia in May “new wells are being developed. Dams will be built to collect water from Crimean rivers. If necessary, desalting plants will be built.”
Expert ecologist Oleksiy Vasyliuk from Crimea SOS considers it unlikely that the Russian idea of desalination of seawater for water supply will be implemented, as such projects are very expensive. Speaking to the Dom TV channel he said “I think Russia is unlikely to find the money for desalination. There is no obvious solution – where to get water, but I do not think that the solution is desalination, because it is the most expensive option of all.” Crimea SOS members also say that over-exploitation of groundwater has increased the salinity of the soil.
The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation has announced a pipeline for an uninterrupted water supply to Crimea. “The armed forces are involved in addressing public issues. For uninterrupted water supply to the population of Crimea, a temporary water supply system with a total length of 32 km has been laid, ” said a Russian MoD spokesman.
As per the spokesman, the pipeline “allowed to remove the water blockade of the peninsula until the completion of the construction of the main water supply system.”
Russia has also started a diplomatic offensive. The Russian Foreign Ministry says that Ukraine’s refusal to supply water to the occupied Crimea was fueling international tensions and could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.
From the end of August 2020, water supply schedules were introduced in Simferopol and Bakhchisaray districts. Later it was extended to Belogorsk and Belogorsk districts and partly Alushta.
The speaker of Crimea’s State Council Vladimir Konstantinov said that it will file a lawsuit against Ukraine for the blockade by mid-2021. The damages claimed may be about $131.41 billion.
At the UN Human Rights Council at its 46th session, the deputy chairman of Crimea’s Council of Ministers, Georgy Muradov said ” Kiev’s Western patrons connive with the Ukrainian authorities, who imposed a barbaric water, energy, transport, food, and humanitarian blockade on Crimea.”
At talks with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) President Rik Daems in May, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the water blockade of Crimea by Kiev ‘a humanitarian crime’.
The UN Monitoring Mission in Ukraine insists that, under international law, Russia has full responsibility for providing water to the Crimean population.
The Russian government plans to allocate about $651.6 million until 2024 to resolve Crimea’s water supply problems. The comprehensive plan drafted at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s instruction provides for extra water supplies of at least 310,000 cubic meters a day.
The moves may have softened Ukrainian as the Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenkoit now says that they may change their position on resuming water supplies in Crimea in case of “very serious concessions” by Russia.
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