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Ukraine Would Supply Water To Occupied Crimea In Event Of "Humanitarian Disaster"

KYIV, Ukraine

Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has said that his government would consider supplying drinking water from the mainland of Ukraine to Russia-occupied Crimea in the event of a "humanitarian disaster".

"If necessary to provide people with water, if there is a humanitarian disaster, of course, Ukraine will provide Ukrainians – somewhere in Crimea or elsewhere – with water and with everything they need, medicines, food and so on," Shmyhal said in an 8 August interview for Radio Svoboda's Ukrainian service.

However, resuming supply of freshwater is not a priority, and provision of water to Ukrainians would not include supply to occupation forces or industry.

Currently, it appears technically impossible to supply water from the Dnipro River to Russia-occupied Crimea. The Crimean Canal is closed and the existing infrastructure cannot support a transfer into Crimea.

"From the standpoint of industrial supply, today there are a number of (. . .) physical constraints, from the Crimean canal being shut, and there have been several investigations, including by journalists, that supplying water to Crimea would not be possible today because of the existing infrastructure, which needs investment and repair, to the fact that we are not going to supply water to our occupiers, occupier troops, for military bases. That is not possible," Shmyhal said.

The government of Ukraine has consistently said that it will not restore water supply to Crimea until Russian-backed armed forces “de-occupy” the region.

In an 18 May interview with Interfax, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Oleksiy Reznikov described Russia as “solely responsible” for the region’s escalating water crisis, saying that "According to the Geneva Convention, (Russia) is obliged to meet all humanitarian requests of the civilian population”.

Before the occupation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, 85 percent of residential drinking water was supplied from the Dnieper River via the North Crimean Canal. Since the effective annexation, residents and farmers have been forced to rely on local reservoirs and groundwater which have been hit by a second year of low snowfall and a dry spring, summer and autumn in 2019.