The Crimea is on the brink of ecological disaster: containers with chemical weapons become depressurized at the bottom of the Black Sea

The Crimea is on the brink of ecological disaster: containers with chemical weapons become depressurized at the bottom of the Black Sea

According to the documents at the disposal of the editorial office of newspaper Zerkalo Nedeli, Ukraine’s failure to salvage the chemical weapons buried at the bottom of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov threaten with environmental disaster in the region.

Since the days of the Second World War containers with the ammunition with mustard gas, lewisite, sarin, and soman were sunk along practically all the length of the shore of the Crimea. In 1941 before the Crimea was occupied by the German troops the Soviet command decided to «hide» the ammunition with poisonous substances, which had already been banned by several conventions, in the sea.

In 1996 the Cabinet of Ministers by its resolution #415 approved the program of search and neutralization of the remainders of the chemical weapons, sunk in the exclusive marine economic zone of Ukraine. Initially the necessary works were planned to be conducted during the term of 1997-2002, which was prolonged twice – to 2006 and then to 2010. The program expired in 2010 with 44 percent implementation rate; however, the Cabinet of Ministers refused to prolong it.

Departmental correspondence found its way into the hands of the journalists – address of the head of the Chamber of Accounts of Ukraine Valentin Symonenko to the president Viktor Yanukovych, endorsements of draft decrees of the Cabinet of Ministers by various agencies and ministries, letters of the scientists regarding the necessity of prolongation of the state program on neutralization of the remainders of the chemical weapons to corresponding ministries. All the normative documents accepted for the program are closed from the public in spite of being related to the environmental information, the access to which cannot be restricted according to the current legislation.

According to the reference signed by Petr Nebotov, the director of the department on economics of defense and security of the ministry of economics, the water area of cape Lukull was partially surveyed, while two thirds of Kerch Strait and only one quarter of the south-eastern coast of the Crimea were inspected. «There are 60 sarcophaguses with defused chemical weapons in Kerch Strait, which need to be re-sunk at greater depths because they pose a threat to navigation and the environment,» is said in the reference.

It follows from another document that the technological areas, to which the monolithic sarcophaguses are transported, are located at a shallow depth:

«At the moment two thirds of sarcophaguses are located at the working site in the coastal strip of Kerch Strait at the depth of five meters; they were not re-buried at greater depths in accordance with the technology of neutralization of containers with the remainders of chemical weapons,» reported the head of the Chamber of Accounts of Ukraine Valentin Symonenko to the president Viktor Yanukovych in September 2010, informing him about failure to fulfill the state programs #1415 and #75.

The letter from Valentin Symonenko to the president Yanukovych reveals the information about the concentration of toxic agents in those areas, where the mustard gas and lewisite have already leaked from the rusted through barrels, located not 15 kilometers away from the shore, but in the immediate vicinity of popular beaches and industrial fishing sites:

«In Kerch Strait, in the region of Geroyevskoye settlement, which is the area of mass recreation, the content of arsenic (decomposition product of warfare agents) in water sample exceeds the allowable level by 3.5 times. Partially destroyed container L400 with chemical weapons, found in this region in July 2007, is still in its place and has not been neutralized. In the region of cape Beliy, where the mussels’ plantations are located, the content of arsenic exceeds the allowable level by 3.46 times.»

Елизавета Будько


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