Excerpts from Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova's briefing

Submitted on Wed, 03/30/2022 - 15:23

Question: Leader of European diplomacy Josep Borrell and European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevicius accused Russia of weaponising the water resources in Ukraine. Can the Foreign Ministry comment on these statements?

Maria Zakharova: This is a masterpiece and a “record” when it comes to the depth of moral and professional degradation of Brussels.

First of all, on February 19 – even before the start of the Russian special operation in Ukraine, the Mariupol City Council reported that, due to the damage of the Southern Donbass Conduit that sends water from the river to the Seversky Donets, the city switched to a reserve water supply using the local Starokrymsky Reservoir. It was reported that “the situation remains fully under control” and that “residents noticed water supply disruptions.”

On March 11, 2022, the city officials reported that the water supply was being restored, distributed as follows: 30 percent from the conduit and 70 percent from the water reservoir, which is the reverse of how it normally is.

This means that the city has access to water. Overall, the issue will be resolved once the DPR troops, with the support of the Russian forces, have liberated Mariupol and the rest of the republic’s territory from the radical nationalists, and once the demilitarisation of Ukraine is complete.

Second, by accusing Russian troops of cutting the water off in Mariupol on purpose, the European Union and its officials are ignoring the fact that, two days before that, on March 20, the Inter-Agency Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Response in Ukraine announced that on March 21, the Russian Defence Ministry would open humanitarian corridors for both civilians and Ukrainian troops (without weapons) to leave Mariupol. A ceasefire was also announced.

The European officials’ statement did not mention the fact that Ukrainian nationalists continue to use civilians as a human shield. Between 80 and 235 civilians had been killed by them every day in the preceding days as they attempted to leave the city. That was not mentioned either. It was not mentioned that on March 21, Russian humanitarian corridors had been organised in Mariupol from the eastern side, and that as of March 28, Russian troops had evacuated 68,000 people – without any kind of involvement from the Kiev authorities. And that yesterday, on March 23, the Russian Armed Forces announced two more exit routes from Mariupol, towards Rostov-on-Don and Zaporizhzhia.  

Moreover, humanitarian corridors open daily in the Kiev, Chernigov, Sumy and Kharkov directions, with one corridor leading to Russia and one to the west. Neither of the corridors towards Russia were approved by Kiev. The European Union refuses to see that. Where is the statement from the EU on this matter? There have been no such statements. Perhaps, journalists could somehow get a response from Josep Borrell. Maybe he will force himself to say a word of truth.

Third, we could listen to all these lamentations coming from Brussels, but there is one “but.” In fact, the European Union could have invested the same energy over the past eight years to speak out against the closing of the North Crimean Canal which supplied water from the Dnieper to the Crimean Peninsula. However, they never did this, not a single time, while they had all the information. Let me remind you that until 2014, this canal covered 90 percent of Crimea’s freshwater needs. The Kiev regime started by closing the locks and went on to build a concrete dam in 2017. This blocked the water supply to the peninsula. They even planted something there to further cement this decision.

Ukraine did this in violation of its international obligations under Article b of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Articles 11 and 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 6 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and Articles 1 and 2 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

We have pointed this out so many times in our briefings and sent so many materials to international organisations. Russia’s permanent representatives at international organisations have brought this up on numerous occasions. Not a word in response. Neither Josep Borrell, nor his predecessors, nor any other figures, environmental activists or international officials ever commented on this. The suffering affected the wrong people, and the wrong civilians were deprived of fresh water. This is part of the selective attitude and the enactment of genuine segregation. All this was happening against a backdrop of statements dividing people into those who are exceptional and those who are ordinary. The first can fight for their existence, while the others cannot. The first need water, while others can get along without it for years. How about eight years? We know what to call this. We have been there. And we warned everyone about this.

In all these years, the European Union has never cared to look into this issue. The Western media, among others, bear direct responsibility because they serve Brussels’ interests. They never inquired about this fact or reported on it. All these years, the European Union couldn’t care less about water or human rights. Brussels never issued any statements warning Kiev against using water as war tactic. All they did was give money: tranches, millions, loans, weapons, technology. Moreover, the European Union supported the policy of discrimination against the people of Crimea by imposing restrictions to punish the people on the peninsula for making the democratic choice to be with Russia. These were the wrong people. Segregate them. This was the gist of their policy, even if they did not call it that way.

Russia resolved the water supply issue in Crimea on its own. We have shared information on this subject. A series of measures enabled the peninsula to tap its own water resources. We built new water supply inlets and conduits. The dam blocking the North Crimean Canal was blown up on February 26, 2022, in the first days of the special military operation. Water from the Dnieper resumed its perennial flow towards Crimea, and has already reached it.

This begs the question: is Brussels aware of the facts that I have just listed, or they simply refuse to recognise them? We kept publishing this information, but what did they do with it at EU headquarters? Did they just stick it under a wobbly chair leg? Depending on the answer, we will know whether this is a matter of European officials’ unprofessionalism, or cynical disinformation of the European and international public.