Amid a sharp decline in Russian income and a drop in Vladimir Putin’s rating, the Kremlin may decide to re-invade Ukraine to secure control over the North Crimean Canal. This opinion was expressed in an interview to Crimea.Realities media agency by the Head of the Board of the Crimean Tatar Resource Center, member of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people Eskender Bariiev.
At the same time, the Crimean Tatar activist emphasizes: drinking water on the peninsula, despite the arid climate, could be enough to meet the needs of the local population. However, the Crimean authorities controlled by Russia prefer to spend it on industrial and military needs, which leads to a serious crisis, Bariiev believes.
“Of course, drought, warm winters, during which little rain fell, and the onset of summer lead to a reduction in fresh water. However, this issue cannot be considered in a humanitarian context, since even such a volume of water is sufficient for the needs of the local population. It is clear that this supply can be carried out on schedule, but, nevertheless, its quantity is able to cover the basic household needs of people. However, the problem is that in practice this water is spent on the military-industrial complex, heating plants, and agricultural services. Of course, there is not enough water in Crimea for such needs”,- he explains.
Eskender Bariiev adds: Russia is actively involved in the settlement of Crimea, which also increases water consumption.
“New apartment buildings are being built, and even according to official figures, 300 thousand people now live in Sevastopol more than at the time of the annexation. These are mainly retirees from among the military, security officials and civil servants. Do not forget about the workers from Central Asia who are engaged in the construction of housing and infrastructure for them. The next category is immigrants from the Caucasus who are trying to start their own business in Crimea and conduct criminal redistribution of control over the territory. Due to this, in Crimea there is a sharp increase in the population and, consequently, the consumption of drinking water”,- explained a member of the Mejlis.
According to him, from the very beginning of the annexation, Moscow has been trying in various ways to achieve from mainland Ukraine the resumption of water supply to the peninsula along the North Crimean Canal.
“The first method was especially relevant in 2014, when the Russian military tried to seize the land corridor to the Crimea, including access to the Kakhovka reservoir. Then managed to stop their progress near Mariupol. The second way is lobbying for the idea that Ukraine should resume water supply to the occupied territory. It is carried out through certain Ukrainian politicians, officials and the media. We can say that in the last year this tactic has intensified, and there have been much more statements on the topic of “humanitarian catastrophe” and the need to open a channel, for example, in exchange for the release of political prisoners. These same thoughts are actively pursued by Russian politicians. The third way of Russia's influence on the Ukrainian authorities in terms of water supply is through lawsuits”, -Eskender Bariiev claimed.
One of these plaintiffs was the Crimean fish factory, which announced the occurrence of “significant damage” due to the Ukrainian side blocking the North Crimean Canal. Claims were initially filed in Ukrainian courts, three instances passed, however, they were not examined on the merits. As a result, the plaintiffs filed an application to the European Court of Human Rights.
“According to Ukrainian law, legal entities established in the occupied territory are considered illegal. At the same time, the plant did not pay, and most likely, due to its illegal status, could not pay the court fee, without which the case cannot be considered on the merits”,- the Crimean Tatar activist reported.
As a result, on June 3, the ECHR rejected the complaint of the Crimean fish factory, which for the Russian side was an occasion for accusations of bias and discrimination against Crimeans, and even hints of the judge’s Azerbaijani origin.
“The complaint was rejected on purely formal grounds: the answer clearly states that the case does not require further proceedings. This was an absolutely competent decision. In turn, Natalia Poklonskaya filed a complaint with the UN, in which she, in particular, pointed out that the cutoff of water is harmful to the ecosystem of the peninsula. However, the North Crimean Canal was originally an artificial structure and was not part of the Crimea ecosystem. At the same time, in her letter, she expressed concern about the fate of the autochthonous peoples, although officially Russia does not want to recognize even the small indigenous peoples of Crimea as indigenous”,- said Eskender Bariev.
At the same time, the Crimean Tatar activist fears that amid the failure of the judicial and information campaigns, Vladimir Putin may again return to attempts to solve the problem by force.
“A drop in its rating against the background of the coronavirus can play a role here. We remind that Putin has always used external aggression to raise his profile and mobilize the population. Moreover, the situation with water in Crimea can indeed become critical. Russian propaganda can skillfully use this by switching the attention of the population to the so-called Ukrainian junta, which dooms our citizens to death from thirst”,- Eskender Bariiev suggests.
Earlier, both Ukrainian and Western analysts also noted the likelihood of such an invasion. However, the Head of the Board of the Crimean Tatar Resource Center hopes: the defense potential of Ukraine and its allies is currently sufficient to contain possible aggression.
“Our army today is not that of 2014. However, Russia uses the weakening of Ukrainian power and the desire of the Ukrainian leadership for peace. Nevertheless, politicians clearly state that water will not be supplied to Crimea. The same position is taken by Ukrainian civil society, understanding that the refusal to supply water is the main instrument for de-occupation of the peninsula. Nevertheless, on the border in the south and east of Ukraine, there is now a contingent of the Russian Armed forces of about 87-90 servicemen. In this regard, the head of the American analytical center of the Jamestown Foundation, Glen Howard, declared the importance of Ukraine conducting exercises in the Kherson region, practicing repelling a possible attack. They are really held periodically”,- explains Bariiev.
According to him, the Russian invasion, carried out without the use of aircraft, is doomed to defeat. In addition, on June 12, Ukraine became a member of the NATO Enhanced Opportunity Partnership program. Such accession gives Ukraine the opportunity to ensure operational planning in the early stages of the crisis and expand dialogue on the exchange of intelligence data.
“First of all, this is a message for Russia that in case of a new aggression, NATO can provide Ukraine with sectoral (operational) and logistical assistance, possibly with lethal weapons, as well as help in protecting its airspace if Moscow uses aviation”,- summed up Eskender Bariiev.
Kseniia Kyrylova, Crimea.Realities