Crimea: Moscow and Kiev quarrel over gas and water
Russian security services accuse Ukrainians of sabotaging gas pipelines near Simferopolis. Tatar activists arrested. Russians launch plans to desalinate water and guarantee water supplies to the population. Kiev wants to take back the peninsula.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Russian security service FSB accuses the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence of sabotaging gas pipelines in Crimea with the help of the Majlis of Tatars, considered by the Russians a terrorist organization. According to the an FSB investigation, revealed on September 7, "the sabotage took place on August 23 in the village of Perevalnoe, near the capital Simferopolis; it was carried out by the section of Ukrainian counter-intelligence stationed in Chersoneso, the so-called Tauria team.
For a payment of 2 thousand dollars each, the conspirators would have been smuggling explosives into Crimea since the end of July. The FSB arrested the Tatar activist Nariman Djeljal, accused of being the "mediator" of the operation, together with the "immediate implementers" Asan and Aziz Akhtemov.
At the end of August the Russian administration in Crimea has approved a project of seawater desalination, entrusted to the Rostekh group for 78 billion rubles (just under one billion euros); the sum should be allocated by the Moscow government. Nine hydroelectric stations were built for their operation, as revealed by the Kommersant newspaper.
After the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Ukraine authorities closed the North Crimean freshwater canal, which supplied the entire peninsula, which has been in severe water shortage ever since. In 2013, before the conflict with the Russians, Crimea used about 727.3 million cubic meters of water for the population, agriculture and industry. Already in 2014, consumption had been reduced by four times, to 172 million, as data from the Institute of Economics and Industrial Production of the Russian Academy of Sciences attest.
The official desalination plan, which runs to 2024, calls for an investment of 9 billion rubles (103 million euros), 10 times less than the project entrusted to Rostekh. Desalination stations are very expensive in production and maintenance, and their installation could raise water rates for the population by a lot.
It is not yet clear how these projects will be financed, especially since very expensive imported machinery will be needed, not to mention that Crimea is under international sanctions.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj wants to take back the peninsula, and shutting off the freshwater supply is just one means. Recently, Kiev has relaunched the discussion on Crimea internationally with the so-called "Crimean Platform", seeking support for the return of the stolen territories.
Ukrainian Deputy Premier Aleksej Reznikov, who is responsible for the reintegration of the "temporarily occupied" territories, stated a short time ago that Ukraine will deport about half a million Russian citizens after taking back Crimea. According to the calculations of the Ukrainian government, that much in fact is the number of Russians who would have moved to the peninsula from 2014 to the present. He specified that according to Ukrainian laws all of them would be "illegally" on the Crimean territory.
This is not the first such statement by members of the Kiev government, which considers Russians relocated to the peninsula "complicit in Moscow's crime." In fact, since the annexation the population of Crimea has decreased, except for a slight increase in the inhabitants of Sevastopol. For Moscow, the annexation is instead "the restoration of a historical injustice," and excludes any possibility of restitution to Ukraine.