Hard environmental threats of occupied Donbas

Author : Aleksa Rakovsky

Source : 112 Ukraine

The uncontrolled flooding of mines by the militants makes the situation with chemical and nuclear repositories unpredictable
09:00, 16 January 2019

Open source

One of the sensitive problems, the solution of which is directly related to the de-occupation of Donbas, is the local environmental situation. In the 20th century, the Soviet government made Donbas a top-developed industrial region. Overloading the region with various mining, coke-chemical, chemical, and metallurgical enterprises caused a large number of hazardous waste repositories and disposal sites. Due to the temporary occupation of Donbas, this "heavy legacy" remained in the territories of the so-called republics.

During 2018, public activists and bloggers, and the official Ukrainian authorities raised the issue of the deteriorating environmental situation in the self-proclaimed republics. Here is a brief list of the most problematic and well-known objects. Firstly, “Yunkom” or Young Communard Yenakiivska mine (in the 70s a series of underground nuclear explosions was carried out there). Secondly, ammonia dumps on the former Stirol concern in Horlivka. There are 450 thousand tons of sulfate dumps with an area of three hectares at a distance of about one and a half km. In addition to sulfates, chemical production wastes, including explosive ones, are located there.

Related: Crimean plant "Tytan" avoids paying environmental fees since 2016

Of course, the uncontrolled flooding of mines by the militants makes the situation with chemical and nuclear repositories really unpredictable. In Horlivka, all the mines were closed; in Donetsk and Makiyivka, only private mines stay afloat.

The industrial subsidence would lead not only to the pollution of groundwater with saturated elements but also to the ingress of corrosive waters into chemical and nuclear burial grounds. Within a few years, this would turn the areas of Donbas into a territory uninhabitable. At the same time, due to the break of the Donetsk Ridge, all this will inevitably fall into Russia’s Rostov region, the waters of the Azov Sea and, subsequently, the Black Sea.

According to the insider information, in November 2018, representatives of the Russian Emergencies Ministry and the “Donetsk People’s Republic” conducted a survey of the storage facilities. According to the results of a visual inspection of containers with these wastes, the Russians came to the conclusion that they are not subject to transportation for subsequent disposal.

Related: Environmental disaster: what happened in Crimea's Armyansk

The abandoned mine excavations in the mines, located near Tsupky in Donetsk region, deserve special attention. This territory is now controlled by the collaborators. In the mid-60s and in the 70s, the Soviet Armed Forces conducted the disposal of the nuclear waste there, which was obtained as a result of the nuclear warheads production. No one knows, how many tons of nuclear waste were brought from the territory of the Russian SSR and buried in these mines. All this information is kept in the archives of the Russian Federation under the "top secret" heading.

Let us not forget about the burial grounds in the Kuibyshiv district of Donetsk, where in the late 70s a pit was dug in the territory of the former Smolyaninivsky coke plant, and the barrels with chemical waste were poured with concrete. These objects are located in Donetsk itself, and in 2014-2015, the positions of large-caliber artillery of an illegal armed formation were next to them.

The situation at the closed Mykytivsky Mercury Combine, where at the end of 2018 water pumping from mercury mining mines (2 and 6 BIS) was stopped, is also dangerous. According to the preliminary estimates, if groundwater contamination lasts for several months or a year, almost all Horlivka town and the villages adjacent to it will be contaminated. At the same time, the South Donbas water supply is close to the subsiding mountain fields of these mines; it which brings water to Horlivka, Yasynuvata district, Donetsk, Avdiivka and a number of other settlements.

Related: Donbas could face environmental disaster, - Ukraine’s Vice Premier

Unfortunately, the list goes on. Any adequate person is worried, whether the so-called “DPR” authorities and their Moscow curators are aware of these dangerous objects and their condition. According to the insider information, from 2016, employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the Federal Security Service, and the military intelligence of the Russian Federation conducted research at Yunkom, Stirol, Mykytivsky Mercury Combine, the last commission was at Horlivsky Chemical Plant. The results of their work were classified. Naturally, none of the environmentalists and representatives of Ukrainian official authorities has access to the conclusions of Russian experts. But the measures taken by the special forces of the Russian Federation and the “DPR” to protect these commissions, a thorough check of the meeting places for “wiretapping”, and so on, suggest certain conclusions.

Are the Russian authorities going to solve the problem of nuclear and chemical waste in the temporarily occupied territories of Donbas? Of course, not. Indirectly, this point of view is confirmed by the December statements by Russian officials, the hysteria of the Russian media and militants about the upcoming chemical attack of the Armed Forces of Ukraine against the so-called republic. The organization and cost of this campaign are much cheaper than a multi-billion dollar project to minimize the negative consequences of the destruction of the above facilities.

Related: Lviv authorities request Cabinet of Ministers to declare city zone of environmental emergency

The Kremlin does not intend to abandon the project to destabilize Ukraine. One option for such a solution might be entering of the UN peacekeepers into these territories. International peacekeeping forces will be able to ensure the safety of the work of international environmental organizations for an objective assessment of the risks from the destruction of nuclear and chemical disposal sites. After that, it would be possible to prepare programs and projects to eliminate the negative consequences for the ecosystem of the Ukrainian territory.

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This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or 112.International and its owners

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