Russia in Crimea: Current Risks and New Challenges

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By Prof. Borys Babin.  

Attempt of annexation and ongoing occupation of Crimean peninsula by Russian Federation (RF) caused not the crisis of modern international law and relations systemonly. It started also the system of negative processes in areas of militarisation, nuclearisation, international criminal traffic, navigation and aviation safety, connected with Crimea. Systematic violation of religious, linguistic and cultural rights of Crimeans, also as the racial discrimination of the Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars in region, brutal violation of personal human rights are sustainable factor for all six years of Russian occupation the peninsula.

At the same time economy of Crimea is totally restructured by Russia to the military vector. Some ambitious infrastructure projects were realised just for this purpose, like bridge via Kerch strait, Tavrida autoban, two thermal power stations. Some Crimean factories got orders on vessels and equipment for Russian Army and Navy. So Crimea became the classic “unsinkable aircraft carrier” for Russian military expansion in Black and Mediterranean regions, also as in Near East and Africa. But in the same time others economic sectors in Crimea are degrading.

The key problem for Russian regime in Crimea is absence of full economic and trade relations with neighbour continental Ukrainian regions, caused by illegal nature of de-facto Crimean authorities. Apart of lack the cargos essentially demanded by Russian military bases in Crimea, illegal nature of Crimean occupation made impossible usage by Crimean industry waters of North Crimean Canal (NCC). Before 2014 more than 80% of water for Crimean industry was supplied by NCC via Kherson Region from the Kakhovka Reservoir fed by the Dniproriver. The lack of NCC waters in Crimea has no humanitarian or ecologic significance, as NCC never has as a goal to satisfy the domestic needs of Crimean population (that uses water from the local sources) and as NCC is the artificial industrial object, constructed by Ukrainian government in 1954-1997.

Since 2014 Russia started the propaganda, politic and legal pressure against Ukraine to restart the supply of water by NCC to Crimea. But all corrupted business proposals were rejected by Ukrainian authorities – four governments and there presidents, that changed since 2014, refused to collaborate with RF in water issue. Also artificial suits by “Crimean enterprises” were rejected not by Ukrainian courts only, but by the ECHR also. Proclamations of Russian politics on “ecocide” and “water blockade” were refuted totally by independent experts.

At the same time all Russian project for supplying water to Crimean industry and for own army in Crimea crumbled. Water pipelines from Caucasus or thedesalination plants were determined as unreal fantasy ideas, and the only the hundreds of new artesian wells become the temporal source for industrial water in Crimea. But during passed years the artesian waters became more and more mineralised and other wells run dry. More, Crimea came in 2019 to the regular five-year dry climatic period with long drought started in early spring of 2020.

So now the only way for RF to get the Dniprowater by NCC is to establish by force the own control over all the NCC, including its part in Ukrainian Kherson Region, from Tavryisk town to the Perekop lane. Senior officers of Ukrainian Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministries started to warnpublicly about the possible escalation of Russian aggression in the Kherson Region for NCC control since April 2020, and now American experts confirmed such prognosis. In June 2020 Lieutenant General F. Benjamin Hodges, who served as commanding general, United States Army Europe, warned on Russian plans to invade Ukrainian mainland and occupy the part of Kherson Region adjacent to NCC water system.

So the possible escalation of Russian-Ukrainian conflict may become the key factor of the regional and global policy and security in the nearest future.


By Prof. Borys Babin


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