November 19, 2018
According to art. 55, 56, 59, 60 of the Convention relative to the protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of August 12, 1949, maintenance of occupied territories is an obligation of the occupying party. As the Crimea was illegally annexed by Russia in spring 2014, responsibility for an ecological situation is the Russian obligation. Let's briefly run back over chronology of events. In the north of the Crimea, in the city of Armyansk there is the biggest plant in Eastern Europe on production of titanic products - Ukrainian Chemical Products better known as "Crimean Titan" owned by the Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash who is currently taking shelter in Austria from extradition to the USA. Notwithstanding occupation and sanctions, the plant continues its work, receiving raw materials through shell companies and carriers. A process of titan production is followed with a large number of dangerous chemical wastes used to be unloaded in special precipitation tanks nearby the plant. For neutralization of their negative impact on environment, they were filled in with a large amount of fresh water received from the North Crimean channel. After occupation in 2014, the Ukrainian authorities used their legitimate right, blocked the channel, thus depriving the Crimea of water from Dnieper. In consequence the management of the enterprise and officials had to cover requirements of water, using local resources: small reservoirs of rain water and artesian wells. But they were quickly exhausted, and the summer of 2018 was hot, that caused accident. On the night of August 24 there was an emission of harmful substances about what locals reported. Metal subjects were covered with unclear oxidation, trees started perishing, in air there was an unpleasant chemical smell. The local occupational administration tried to hide this event, having neutralized emission consequences by filling up of settling tank with soda. But the factor of high temperature of air was not considered, and as a result the situation was aggravated. In vicinities of the plant and in the city death cases from suffocation of birds and small animals (rodents, domestic cats) were reported. It was also reported about death of people, but there is no reliable information on it. Nearly two weeks later (on September 4), the Russian officials declared the beginning of partial evacuation of the population, so far only children, from Armyansk and neighboring villages. But the central Russian TV channels keep silence over technogeneous accident. Though the Russian authorities got used to hide such information as it was with emission of a radioactive element ruthenium-106 at the end of 2017 in Chelyabinsk, in the south of the Urals. The fact of the emission is confirmed by measurements carried out in Germany and France. However, let's talk about the Crimean case. There is an opinion that accident was deliberately provoked to force Ukraine to resume supply of water to the peninsula. Even the Ukrainian border service stated poisoning of its several employees who are on duty on border with occupied territories. However, the similar version looks very far-fetched. It is much more probable that the human factor is the main cause of the accident: habitual for Russians " trusting to luck " and postponement of the solution of small problems as a result lead to such deplorable consequences. And after all this situation is not simply environmental disaster for Ukraine and Russia, but for the whole Black Sea region, even for Eastern Europe and Asia Minor. The cloud of chemicals does not care of geopolitics and nationalities, and the poisoned rainfall depends on the wind. It is worth remembering the tragedy in Chernobyl - accident happened in the USSR, but all Europe suffered. Here the situation is very similar. Russia once again confirmed its inability to maintain the occupied territories. After all the plant where this tragedy happened is not the only potentially dangerous undertaking in the Crimea. Also it should be taken into account that for the last 4 years Russia has provided the peninsula with the weapon, including nuclear. And the only exit from the current situation - a full and unconditional deoccupation of the Crimea. Only this way is a possible resolution of all those problems.
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Rene Westbrook