February 11, head of the Servant of the People faction Davyd Arahamia announced that he would agree to let water into annexed Crimea in exchange for returning Donbas. The scandal was not expected to wait long. The news from the peninsula, where the occupying authorities say that they have drinking water for a maximum of 90-100 days, has added some heat to it. Arakhamia apologized for her words, but this did not stop the whirlpool of the “water scandal.”
Ukraine provided up to 85% of Crimea's freshwater needs through the North Crimean Canal, connecting the main channel of Dnipro with the peninsula. Water supplies were cut off after the Russian annexation of the peninsula in 2014.
North Crimean Canal
At the end of 2015, due to lack of water, so-called head of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov declared a wartime regime and demanded the forcible withdrawal of wells with drinking water from private enterprises.
Already in April 2017, the occupation authorities announced that the peninsula was 100% provided with water, however, Krym.Realii outlet wrote that this information was untrue. According to the media, Crimea did not find an alternative to the supply of Dnipro water, except for large-scale pumping of groundwater.
In June 2019, Borys Babin, the former representative of the President of Ukraine in Crimea, said that the Russian Federation even offered bribes to restore water supply to Crimea.
Statements from Kyiv
The first statement from representatives of the new government on this topic came at the end of January 2020, when MP from the Servant of the People party Yuriy Aristov said that Ukraine was considering the option of selling water to Crimea.
“There was an idea to sell water. The Israelis actually sell water to a warring country, they earn money on this. So we had an idea, for example, to sell water to Russia,” Aristov said.
Russia appreciated such an idea. “The statement is sound. We said from the very beginning that we were ready to pay for this water. But no arguments were accepted,” Vladimir Dzhabarov, member of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs, noted.
For his part, leader of the Crimean Tatar people MP from Poroshenko’s party Mustafa Dzhemilev said that Kyiv would not allow Dnipro to enter Crimea after the de-occupation of the peninsula.
“Of course, Crimea suffers from a shortage of water, in the steppe part it is already a disaster for agriculture. We will supply water, surely, but only after the liberation of Crimea from the invaders,” Dzhemilev stated.
He recalled that in accordance with the 1949 Geneva Convention, all responsibility for the situation of people in the occupied territory rests with the occupying country.
As a result, Aristov had to make excuses, he specified that it was just an idea, and now this issue was not discussed.
The author of another resonant statement was Davyd Arahamia, who stated that he would agree to let water into Crimea in exchange for concessions from Russian President Vladimir Putin to Donbas.
In particular, MP was asked to express a personal position on the situation in which Putin would offer to make concessions in Donbas in exchange for Ukraine’s supply of water to Crimea.
"I will consider this (resumption of water supply, - ed.) a sufficient compromise. I would go for that. Because citizens of Ukraine in Crimea will use water in one way or another... If this is an exchange that they leave with everyone with our armed formations in Rostov, and we are establishing full control over our border and for this we need to supply water to Crimea, I would definitely go for that, "said Arakhamia.
In response to this statement, leader of Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, Refat Chubarov, accused Arakhamia of trading in Ukrainian territory and emphasized that letting water into Crimea means surrendering to the Russian Federation half a million Crimean Tatars.
For his part, the deputy chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, Ilmi Umerov, called for an end to "playing with fire."
"Davyd, ask yourself the question: how will it be written in the agreement on the supply of water to Crimea? Does Ukraine supply water to the 83rd region of the Russian Federation, the Republic of Crimea? This is a direct recognition of Russia's jurisdiction in the Crimea... Our task is to make Crimea an unbearable, expensive burden for Russia. And Ukraine, under the leadership of your party, is always trying to please the aggressor," Umerov believes.
The Kremlin responded to the statement of Arakhamia. So, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted that “Crimea cannot be the object of any exchange.”
Is Crimea water-out zone?
Reports of serious water shortages on the peninsula began to appear in January 2019. As Kerch.FM wrote, the North Crimean Canal in the Kerch area has become shallow.
The fact that more recently there was much more water can be judged by the marks on the posts and poles, where algae got tangled at the previous level.
The tensest situation has developed in Simferopol, where, according to the head of the Moscow State Committee for Water Management and Land Reclamation of Crimea Igor Weil, there is a maximum of 90-100 days of drinking water left.
February 5, Russian head of Simferopol’s administration, Olena Protsenko, said that residents of Simferopol would receive hot water supply only on weekends.
And while the occupation authorities say that there are no problems with water, in the churches of the annexed Crimea they pray for water, Krym.Realii reports.