Ukraine War Day #93: Water Crisis In The Donbass

Humanitarian law is […] designed to protect civilian objects, including those indispensable to the survival of the civilian population. Article 29 of the Convention on the law relating to the non-navigational uses of international watercourses, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1997, stipulates:

“International watercourses and related installations, facilities and other works shall enjoy the protection accorded by the principles and rules of international law applicable in international and non-international armed conflict and shall not be used in violation of those principles and rules”.

While overthrowing Gaddafi, America and France made sure to destroy Libya’s main water project.

General protection under the law applicable to armed conflicts extends to more than international watercourses, and the four main prohibitions laid down in that law are worth noting:

  • the ban on employing poison or poisonous weapons;
  • the ban on destroying, confiscating or expropriating enemy property;
  • the ban on destroying objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population;
  • the ban on attacking works or installations containing dangerous forces.

Dear Readers:

In the course of this conflict, the Ukrainian side has violated every single one of those above bans, yet you never hear a peep from their Western sponsors. Not surprising, since those Western (colonial) powers, such as the U.S. and France, are the very same ones who deliberately targeted and destroyed Libya’s main water project, the Great Man-Made River. Which was built to provide a reliable source of water in the desert, not just to Libyans but also neighboring African nations. The deliberate and malicious destruction of this project has to be considered one of the greatest war crimes ever committed on this planet.

Similarly, in many places where the Ukrainian troops have been forced to retreat, they adopted what people commonly call a “scorched earth” policy, but in this case the destruction has more to do with water than fire. Ukrainian policy of depriving Crimea (and Donbass residents) of water started as early as 2014, when Ukrainian Nationalists blocked the flow of river water to the Crimea. Again, just crickets from their Westie sponsors, although this act was clearly against international law. It is telling that the Russian side, within just a couple of days of the invasion, quickly unblocked the water; it was one of the earliest, and main, strategic goals of the whole military operation. And is the reason why Russia will absorb the Kherson Oblast and never give it up again. Because Crimea cannot survive without Kherson.

Nonetheless, sadly, water continues to be a huge problem for the people of the Donbass; the problem has, alarmingly, reached crisis proportions, according to this piece co-written by reporters Rafael Fakhrutdinov and Alyona Zadorozhnaya. The headline reads:

Why The Liberation Of Slavyansk Is On An Urgent Timetable

The largest cities of the Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR) are on the cusp of a humanitarian catastrophe, due to Kiev cutting off the water, and the Ukrainian military blowing up the sluices. The DPR leaders are urging [the Russians] to speed up the operation, in order to take the hydro hubs away from the Ukrainian armed forces. They need to have everything repaired by autumn.

On Thursday [that was yesterday, May 26] Denis Pushilin (DPR head) communicated the urgency of speeding up military operations in the North of the Donbass. He reported that official Kiev has shut off water to the cities of Donetsk, Makeevka, and Gorlovka; and will most likely blow up other hydro hubs if they can.

Pushilin: The Northern direction is extremely important to us. […] There are six rises (подъем – locks?) on the way to Slavyansk, six vulnerabilities, therefore it crucial that we hurry. […] If the [retreating] enemy gets the opportunity to blow up any one of these water hubs, then he will surely do it. […] In which case, we also need to allocate time for the repairs, which must happen before the cold weather sets in. Because otherwise, things could turn out very badly — should the water pipes freeze, for example…

Vladislav Berdichevsky

DPR Parliamentary Deputy Vladislav Berdichevsky: “The situation is very serious, we are having a lot of problems with the water. In some regions we only get water once every four days, in others just once a week. And in the Petrovsky and Kirovsky neighborhoods of Donetsk, there is no water at all.”

According to Berdichevsky, it came about, historically, that all of the water in this region comes from the North, from the direction of Slavyansk: “That’s where the pumping stations are located, which raise the water up to the higher level of the Donetsk Ridge — into Gorlovka, Makeevka and also into Donetsk itself. Pushilin is absolutely right: If we go into the autumn season without water, then we are facing huge issues for all of the communal services, one could even predict a real catastrophe.”

Berdichevsky added that the problem cannot be solved without the pumping stations: “I have a suspicion that the retreating Ukrainian troops will not leave us the hydro-hubs in working order. Judging by their terrorist mentality, one can be reasonably sure that the Banderites will carry out some type of diversion, by which they will complicate our situation with the water.”

Water is pumped from the Sloviansk area in the North, southward to Horlivka, Makiyivka and Donetsk, which are on a higher ridge.

Readers: Here I need to introduce a new term which the Russian side started using: Allied forces, which includes Russian army, DPR, LPR, Chechens, Wagner mercenaries, and anybody else fighting on the pro-Russian side. I’ll start using this term myself, not because I am propagandized, but just because it’s easier and more convenient than listing out all the various forces, as above.

Anyhow, returning to Berdichevsky’s pessimistic prognoses: “Given these factors, the Allied forces have no alternative except to speed up the tempo of the operation. Our side is conducting a massive artillery attack on the positions of the Ukrainian formations along the whole line of demarcation. According to our intel, their troops are in a state of complete chaos, they don’t even have the means to evacuate the corpses of their fallen comrades, there is a huge number of deserters and retreating soldiers. Given this, my hope is that everything will be over in just a couple of months, after which our specialists will start fixing and deploying the pumping stations.”

The Imminent Catastrophe

Next we hear the opinions of a man named Vladimir Kornilov, a political analyst working out of Donetsk. Born in 1968, Kornilov graduated from the Donetsk State University with a degree in History. He has written several books and also engaged in journalism. In 2014 he was declared an Enemy of the People on the Ukrainian Mirotvorec site, and in 2019 he obtained Russian citizenship.

Vladimir Kornilov

Kornilov: Ukrainian units have damaged the sluices of the Oskol Hydroelectric Station, which is located in the Izyum region of the Kharkov Oblast. They bombed the filtration station, so that now Donetsk and its surrounding towns — Makeevka, Gorlovka, Yasinovataya — find themselves in a regime of near drought. For a while water was still provided according to a schedule, but now not even that. Sometimes it drips out [of the faucet], some days you are lucky and get more — in many respects we are dependent just on the rain. And this is not the first week that people are having to live like this. However, this is some hope of improvement, now that Allied forces have taken Liman, because there are some sluices there. DPR Emergency Services conducted a survey of the objects and came to the conclusion that they can be repaired in just a few weeks, with the assistance of Russian specialists.

Retreating Ukrainian troops attempted to blow up the dam at Svetlodarsk reservoir

Unfortunately, according to Kornilov, Ukrainian troops still continue to hold a significant part of the water sources in the area of Slavyansk. Therefore, the main cities of Donetsk continue to remain under the risk of humanitarian catastrophe, up until the day when Allied forces are finally able to capture Slavyansk and Kramatorsk.

Moreover, just to make things even worse, meteorologists are predicting for Donetsk in the next week or so, a heat wave in the 30’s. [yalensis: for Americans, 30 degrees Celsius is around 86 degrees Fahrenheit.] Kornilov: “The local authorities have organized the delivery of water, shipments are coming all the way from Russia, but this is not enough to solve the problem for a city with a million population and its large satellites.”

Like the others, Kornilov pounds in the talking point, that the Allied forces need to speed up the operation. “I realize this isn’t a simple matter. One needs to find that balance, and the golden mean between escalating military activities, while still attempting to preserve the lives of peaceful civilians and soldiers.”

In his parting shot, Kornilov adds that the Ukrainian troops, while retreating from Svetlodarsk, attempted to blow up the sluices on the Mironovsky Water Reservoir, their goal was to flood and drown the nearby populated areas. Fortunately, the Allied forces were able to avert this attack.

[yalensis: I read that the Ukrainians were actually able to set off a bomb at the Svetlodarsk reservoir. Fortunately, this old Soviet-style dam, made of stern concrete, withstood the blast, with only minor damage. Otherwise several nearby towns would have been under water, for sure.]

In conclusion: Everybody in Donetsk is urging the Allied forces to please go faster, keep it moving along, need to take Slavyansk and Kramatorsk as soon as physically possible. Why? Because they need the water.

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18 Responses to Ukraine War Day #93: Water Crisis In The Donbass

  1. Stevelancs says:

    A comment at Larry C Johnson’s site springs to mind, where it was suggested that if the USA had continued with conscription there would be wives and mothers protesting on the streets to stop this war, and thousands of military-age men heading for Canada. It would have been over before it began.
    The other alternative it seems to me, is to take the fight to the UK and the USA who are the main motivators. Knock out a few power stations in the US and let the rioters run amuck, then hit the House of Commons or 10 Downing Street, so that the Brits know how serious this is.
    Putin is far too gentle.


  2. Liborio Guaso says:

    It is a question of not letting oneself become criminals, the world has had enough since 1492.


  3. daniel_s says:

    Thank you so much for your posts which inform about hardly known (here in Switzerland) aspects and issues of this war.
    And…you do it in writing instead of talking, something I truly appreciate ever so much!


    • yalensis says:

      Thanks, Daniel! Yeah, I don’t know how people can get up there on youtube and talk for 2 hours on podcasts. I respect them for doing it, but I couldn’t do it myself. I prefer to write!

      I envy you living in Switzerland, I hear it’s beautiful there. I love mountains!


  4. Stephen T Johnson says:

    Well, lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.

    It’s (almost) enough to make me despair at times.


  5. nicolaavery says:

    Thanks very much Yalensis, I hope the catastrophe can be avoided somehow. I looked at this map of aquifers and I don’t know if they do use boreholes to get groundwater as well as more industrialised methods. Rainwater harvesting on houses is good in rural areas and maybe help if it can be collected, from a metoffice prediction it seems higher rain but not much for July and August, and what to store it in, cover it from bird poo etc.I hope they canat least get enough energy to boil it if they can’t sanitise it any other way. There are diy water-air collection containers (atmospheric water generators) like this


    • yalensis says:

      Thanks for the links, Nicola. I think they have electricity now, so maybe they can boil the rain water to sanitize it. Just crossing my fingers and hoping Ukrainian soldiers are too busy to blow up more aquifers on their way out!


  6. Ben says:

    Sorry, but I have no idea where you’re getting your information on the Libya water project from. From the very wiki page you linked to, it not only continues to exist and operate (though degraded after years of civil war), but while NATO did bomb something related to it in 2011, it wasn’t the pipe network itself. It was one of the factories that manufactured the pipes. And as NATO tells it, they had cause, with artillery having been sighted in the area. Whether that’s justification or not, the fact remains that they could have destroyed or caused real damage to the network had they wanted to, but didn’t.

    ‘The deliberate and malicious destruction of this project has to be considered one of the greatest war crimes ever committed on this planet’ is hysterical nonsense, because it literally didn’t happen.

    Is this the type of ‘fact’ that gets passed around the Russian language internet? Because it’s literally a lie. It’s a much a lie as all the current claims that Russia is blockading Ukrainian grain exports.


    • peter moritz says:

      “It is a war crime to attack essential civilian infrastructure. 95% of Libya is desert and 70% of Libyans depend on water which is piped in from the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System under the southern desert. The water pipe infrastructure is probably the most essential civilian infrastructure in Libya. Key to its continued function, particularly in time of war, is the Brega pipe factory which enables leaks and breaks in the system to be repaired.”

      “Critical water installations bombed – then blamed on Gaddafi

      It was in fact NATO which debilitated Libya’s water supply by targeting critical state-owned water installations, including a water-pipe factory in Brega.

      The factory, one of just two in the country (the other one being in Gaddafi’s home-town of Sirte), manufactured pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipes for the Great Manmade River (GMR) project, an ingenious irrigation system transporting water from aquifers beneath Libya’s southern desert to about 70% of the population.

      On 18th July, a rebel commander boasted that some of Gaddafi’s troops had holed up in industrial facilities in Brega, but that rebels had blocked their access to water: “Their food and water supplies are cut and they now will not be able to sleep.”

      The claim is that either both, the system and the factory were bombed, or the factory alone. The factory was essential for the maintenance of the system. It is also considered a war crime by the first article linked. So, what is your beef? The reports are not either-or, the reports are both might have been targeted and damaged.
      The situation however is clear, a war crime happened because civilian infrastructure based again on spurious claims was attacked. It is reported that the claim of artillery stationed comes from the rebels, similar to claims that Russians committed atrocities are peddled about by Ukrainian Nazis.


    • yalensis says:

      If I was mistaken about the man-made river project, then I apologize for the mis-information. It was my understanding that the NATO-supported “rebels” put this entire water project out of commission, in the course of the war. If it is, indeed, still functioning and providing water to the people of that region, then I am very happy to hear that news.


  7. Aaron says:

    Thanks again for this article on a topic not covered but of significant importance. I leave an interview you may find interesting. Aaron


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