Empty Zahirske Reservoir in Russian-occupied Crimea, January 2021. Photo: TASS via RFE/RL
Major reservoirs are running dry, and the occupiers are trying to get water from old wells not deep enough to handle the declining water table, the result of drought, the end of water coming in from Ukraine proper, and Russian mismanagement.
In the last few days, Russian officials both in Moscow and Crimea have suggested the situation is easing as a result of winter snows. But any easing is both temporary and too small to solve the shortages, Ukrainian water experts say.
That puts Kyiv in a difficult position. On the one hand, it certainly does not want to see Ukrainians even under Russian occupation suffer in this way; but on the other, it does not want to take any action that appears to recognize as legitimate the illegal Russian Anschluss or not take action and cause Moscow to launch a new round of aggression to get water.
In a new commentary, Kyiv writer Vitaly Portnikov says that the crisis in fact highlights what Ukrainians have always insisted on: Crimea is geographically and legally part of Ukraine and must be returned to Kyiv as soon as possible. Otherwise, suffering there will only increase.
These plans reflect just how different Ukraine’s Crimea is from the rest of Russia by putting in place rules that the Kremlin isn’t prepared to introduce elsewhere in the hope that they will lead foreign businesses to forget about how “toxic” the issue is and how responsible Moscow is for that reality.
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