MILITARY SUCCESS IN CHECHNYA UNDERMINED BY DIFFICULT ECOLOGICAL SITUATION

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Official military bodies and specialists announce that the amount of money required to solve humanitarian problems in Chechnya is not available

The troops are undertaking an anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya and are currently targeting their efforts in the mountains. Representatives of the Defense Ministry have officially announced that the number of federal forces in Chechnya will be reduced. The Interior Forces and militia will take the initiative to control the situation in Chechnya. Peaceful life will be restored, refugees will return and economic objects and housing will be rebuilt. For an indeterminable period in the future, peaceful life in Chechnya will have a semi-military character, because military commissariats will be the major governing force in the republic and financing will flow through the field institutions of the Central Bank. Officers will work in the administration of Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Koshman, the plenipotentiary of the federal government in Chechnya. Such a policy is quite understandable. Transitional power bodies are needed for the period of transition from war to peace. By fulfilling combat tasks, the Defense Ministry troops will also solve humanitarian problems. One of them is the ecological condition of Chechnya. Major General Boris Alekseev, the director of the ecological safety department of the Armed Forces, announced that the ecological situation in Chechnya had reached a critical point. General Alekseev stressed that the troops were assigned the task of improving ecological conditions in the republic. Hence, the polluted areas in Chechnya will not be liquidated soon. According to military ecologists, no money is available for this task.

Meanwhile, the scale of pollution in the Northern Caucasus is huge. A recent press release of the Defense Ministry’s PR service also outlines many ecological problems. According to the PR service, at the beginning of the anti-terrorist operation in the Northern Caucasus, many private mini-oil refineries appeared in Chechnya and by the summer of 1999, their number exceeded 1,500. Their operation led to underground water sources and soil being contaminated by oil products. In 1995, over 30% of the Chechen territory was characterized as “a zone of ecological disaster” and another 40% of the territory had the status of a zone with a particularly unfavorable ecological situation. At present, such zones comprise almost 50% of the territory of Chechnya.

For example, in Grozny, over two million tons of oil products have accumulated in the soil as a result of many years of leakage of oil products from communications and storage facilities. Within this territory (30 square kilometers), an oil and water bearing bed was formed with a floating layer of oil products, which in some places comes to the surface of the Sunzha River. The average depth of oil products penetration into the soil exceeds two meters. The concentration of oil products near sources of pollution exceeds the natural level by ten times or more.

Estimating pollution of underground water, the military ecologists maintain that the water is contaminated with oil products, phenol, ammonia, organic substances, sulfates and pesticides. The districts of Grozny, Sary-Su and Kargolinskoe villages are the most polluted areas, where the concentration of oil products and phenol exceeds the maximum tolerable level by 100-1,000 times. These areas are characterized as zones of “ecological disaster.”

The surface water in Chechnya is also polluted. Among the rivers flowing in Chechnya, the most ecologically damaged are Terek, Sunzha, Argun, and Belka. They are primarily polluted with organic substances (oil products) and heavy metals (copper, zinc, lead). The quality of water in Sunzha is characterized as “dirty.”

According to recent information, pollution in the Argun River from oil products, which resulted from the operation of handicraft oil refineries, in some places exceeds maximum tolerable concentrations by 1,000 times. Pollution of the Belka and Terek Rivers is similar. The Caspian Sea and its unique fish reserves are threatened with an ecological catastrophe. The aforementioned facts can only be described as “ecological terrorism” against the local population and the environment.

There is also a certain danger of radioactive contamination. The special enterprise Radon has been operating in Grozny since 1960’s. The main task of the enterprise was the transportation and storage of radioactive wastes of small and medium power. Until 1990, the enterprise was functioning and servicing the Northern Caucasus republics, but in 1990 it was shut down.

In March 1995, in accordance with the directive of the federal government on February 23, the interagency commission examined the places of temporary storage of sources for ionizing radiation in Grozny. According to the results of the examination, the premises and equipment of the enterprise were not in working condition. There was no documentation about the sources of ionizing radiation. The places of their storage were not properly guarded and did not meet the requirements of radiation safety. These objects have been taken under reliable guard of the federal forces.

New reports have been submitted about the discovery of explosives. On February 9, the mass media reported that agents of the recently organized republican operational department for combating organized crime found 250 kilograms of hexogen in Chechnya.

Samples of this hexogen were sent to criminologists for comparative analysis with the explosive, which was used in the terrorist actions in Moscow, Volgodonsk, and Buinaksk.

Meanwhile, it is quite clear that additional supplies of hexogen exist in Chechnya. Special services say that new terrorist actions are being planed; hence, it is possible that other parts of Chechnya will become ecologically hazardous. However, only small funds will be assigned for the task of their liquidation. Deputy Prime Minister Koshman said that 2-3 billion rubles would be spent on restoration of Chechnya in 2000. Along with this, no financing has yet been allocated for the restoration of Grozny (not a single house survived in the city). Almost 900 million rubles will be spent for the military infrastructure, almost every third ruble of the planned assignments. This confirms the fact that the Kremlin associates restoration of the disobedient republic with the priorities of the military.

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