Sight gunner of a Russian Black Sea Fleet warship
RIA Novosti, Sergey Petrosyan en.rian.ru/photolents/20060629/50638768_7.html
Vladimir Putin, President
4 Staraya Square
It is widely reported that the Russian Black Sea Fleet pollutes Sevastopol waters:
In the last few years the most ecologically dangerous zone of Ukraine in terms of seawater pollution with petroleum products has been the Sevastopol bays. The petroleum product content by far exceed the permissible level of contamination in the bays, mostly as a result of sea water pollution by the Black Sea Fleet, which stems from improper handling of petroleum products in the bays and discharge of petroleum-containing sewage from ships and coast installations. Samples taken during the last years in the bays of Pivdenna, Kamishova, Golandiya, Karantinna and Pivnichna display a content of polluting petroleum agents in the surface layers of the sea permanently exceeding the maximum permissible level by three to ten times.
UNEP/GRID Arendal, Ecological conditions of the Black Sea and Sea of Azov enrin.grida.no/htmls/ukraina/soe98/region/5_2_1.htm. Similar allegations can be found in other sources, as for example, those made by the Ukrainian Ministry of Environmental Protection at mail.menr.gov.ua/publ/nreport/nd96/nd/nd96/black_s.htm
The sleepy navy base with tree lined avenues — where locals and tourists could once breathe clean air and bathe in the crystal clear waters of one of Sevastopol’s 40 bays — is no more. The water in its bays, once so blue and clear, is no longer clean and — truth be told — often smells quite badly.
Halyna Alomova, Sevastopol, Ukraine. Black sea, green city? www.unep.org/OurPlanet/Siversn/161/almova.html
In addition to water contamination, which is accessible to measurement by concerned parties, there possibly also exists land contamination within Russian military bases which is inaccessible to measurement, and which because it has remained hidden from critical eyes, has grown more severe and difficult to treat than the corresponding water contamination. If the Kremlin claims that no such land contamination exists, it should permit impartial observers to tour Russian facilities and take measurements in verification of that claim.
The 1997 agreement which requires the Russian Black Sea Fleet to vacate Ukrainian territory by 2017 possibly does not grant Russia permission to contaminate Sevastopol. If no provision permitting Russian contamination of Sevastopol exists in the 1997 agreement, then the Kremlin may have an obligation to stop contaminating, or if it is unable to do so, then to compensate Ukraine for the unauthorized and damaging use that it is making of Ukrainian territory.
If the Russian Black Sea Fleet has created toxic sites in Sevastopol, the Kremlin may be under some responsibility to clean them up before departing. If the Kremlin does take responsibility, then cleanup should begin immediately so as to have some chance of completion by 2017. If the Kremlin disclaims responsibility, Ukraine might be within its rights to subtract cleanup costs from its energy payments to Russia.
Against whom does the Kremlin anticipate deploying its Black Sea Fleet? Surely no one imagines the fleet being called up against Georgia or Turkey or Bulgaria or Romania, each of which borders the Black Sea. It would seem that the only plausible target of Russian Black Sea Fleet action is Ukraine, as began to happen during the Orange Revolution elections of 2004. As is recounted in the Kyiv Post of 20 Dec 2004, the plan approved personally by you in collaboration with then Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, and which had been put into motion, was to ship 900 Donetsk men, "former convicts, sportsmen and other irregulars," to Kyiv on 27-28 Dec 2004 for the purpose of inciting violence. The group was to be armed with 100 rifles, 90 hand grenades, and 25 kg of the explosive trotyl. Relevant here is that the weapons had been supplied to the Donetsk Nine Hundred by the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
The question that the Ukrainian people are waiting for you to answer, then, is whether your maintaining the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol serves primarily to facilitate the use of force against Ukraine to restore it to the Russian Empire.
It might be worth emphasizing that the underlying question is less one of the exercise of illicit and harmful power by Russia against Ukraine than it is one of the exercise of illicit and harmful power by the Kremlin against everybody. The health that Russian Black Sea Fleet toxins most impair, and the lives that they most shorten, are those of the Russian sailors who serve the fleet, and those of the predominantly-Russophone inhabitants of Sevastopol.