Water shortages in occupied Crimea now so great Moscow likely to step up pressure on Kyiv, Kazarin says

A dried-out area of the Simferopol Water Reservoir in April 2020. According to media reports, this main water storage facility for Crimea's capital city is only at one-third of its capacity for this time of the year. Photo: krymr.org (RFE/RL)

A dried-out area of the Simferopol Water Reservoir in April 2020. According to media reports, this main water storage facility for Crimea's capital city is only at one-third of its capacity for this time of the year. Photo: krymr.org (RFE/RL) 

Crimea, Opinion

north-crimean canal

The North-Crimean Canal that supplied Ukraine’s Crimea with most of freshwater it needed from 1975 up until the early months of the Russian occupation in 2014.

Vladimir Putin has played down the problems arising from water shortages in Russian occupied Crimea, but they are so critical not only for sustaining the lives of the people there but for agricultural and industrial development that Moscow has little choice but to put more pressure on Kyiv to release water to Crimea, Pavlo Kazarin says.

The Ukrainian commentator says that Russian talk about building desalinization plants will lead nowhere. Such plants are expensive, can’t make up for the loss of water from the mainland, and worse result in salt byproducts that are hard to dispose of.

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Consequently, he argues, Moscow will be forced to put more pressure on Kyiv in the hopes that the Ukrainian authorities will release enough water for Kyiv to avert a humanitarian and economic disaster. Obviously, Ukraine is reluctant to do anything to ease the plight of the occupying authorities but it can’t ignore that of the Ukrainian people living under Russian rule.

The Kremlin will undoubtedly continue to use diplomatic and media campaigns to try to get Ukraine to change course on this issue. Indeed, it is already doing so. But as conditions deteriorate this spring and summer, Moscow may conclude it has no choice but to adopt even tougher methods.

One of those, although Kazarin does not mention it in this case, would involve a military move to seize water supplies in southeastern Ukraine, a possibility that Kyiv is already preparing for but one that is all too real, especially as Moscow can be counted on to blame any further aggression by Russian forces on Ukraine for not releasing water.

The danger of that will only increase, given just how bad the water situation now is in Crimea, especially with regard to potable water. In many cases, the water the Russian occupiers are releasing to people under their control is already clearly inadequate both in amount and quality.


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