The prolonged occupation of Crimea has led to a systemic degradation of the level of health protection of local residents. Our Association previously conducted a study of the epidemic situation in occupied Crimea, in particular during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as in the case of the “Crimean Anti-Plague Station”, and within the framework of new epidemic challenges caused by large-scale Russian aggression and aggravated after the occupiers blew up the Kakhovka hydroelectric station.
The corresponding challenges were outlined by our experts at the international round table “Legal Regulation of Epidemic Safety in Conditions of War and Post-War Reconstruction” in June 2023. Therefore, PhD Anna Prykhodko will try to understand this medical issue and determine how the Ukrainian authorities and the international community should respond to the current situation.
Examining the improved plan for the reintegration and de-occupation of the peninsula, adopted by Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine dated April 4, 2023 No. 288, experts from our Association stated that within a number of processes and situations within the framework of the reintegration of de-occupied Crimea, the Ukrainian authorities should objectively take into account the presence of a difficult environmental situation in the region, in particular in the field of water use, as well as the chemical and gas industries and related epidemiological challenges.
An analysis of this document also shows that some of its instructions directly relate to medical activities. This is not only paragraph 68 of the plan, according to which, until the moment of de-occupation, sanatorium and resort treatment of children from the temporarily occupied territory should be provided in medical, sanatorium and resort institutions on the mainland of Ukraine, and paragraph 70 of the plan for legal regulation and ensuring the provision of medical rehabilitation, in particular psychological one, and other restorative therapy for war veterans and persons in respect of whom the fact of deprivation of personal liberty as a result of armed aggression against Ukraine has been established, after their release, but also plan’s paragraph 71 on obtaining remote consultation with a doctor by citizens of Ukraine living in the occupied territory. However, these norms did not provide for special financial or resource support, and the plan also did not separately define the practical format for their implementation with respect to the requirements of paragraphs 68 and 71.
At the same time, in the Plan of Urgent Measures to counter Russian aggression from the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine in Crimea, to protect the interests of the state, citizens of Ukraine and Ukrainian legal entities in Crimea for 2018-2019 dated June 20, 2018 No. 17 in paragraphs 12.1.1 and 12.3.2 were required to determine the quantity and quality of scientific developments available since 2014 in medical disciplines in the Crimea and to work out proposals for representatives of international organizations and foreign states to receive international technical assistance to finance relevant activities in the controlled territory of Ukraine and in foreign countries.
Clause 14.6.1 of the 2018 Plan provided for holding a quarterly meeting to identify effective mechanisms for providing Ukrainian citizens arriving from occupied Crimea with quality medical care in medical institutions controlled by Ukraine, ways to finance the provision of appropriate assistance, developing changes to regulations, and monitoring implementation relevant planned measures of state internal policy in Crimea, determined by the Ukrainian government.
Clause 14.6.2 of the 2018 Plan stipulated the holding of an annual seminar with the participation of representatives of authorized international organizations on the state of providing the occupied population of Crimea with vaccines, serums, means of treating infectious diseases, establishing the real epidemic situation in Crimea and the provision of “medical care” by structures controlled by the occupation “authorities”, for citizens of Ukraine.
As an expected result of such activities, the Plan provided for the processing, following the results of meetings, of a system of interregional distribution of highly specialized medical care for citizens of Ukraine living in the Crimea, with the distribution of appropriate funds from state and local budgets and the formation of a system of constant information about the possibility of receiving such assistance to the population of the occupied peninsula.
In addition, the Plan provided for the identification, with the participation of authorized international organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, of effective mechanisms for providing the population of occupied Crimea with vital medications and other means of treatment and prevention that are not provided by the occupation “authorities”. However, the specified requirements of the Plan were obviously not fulfilled before the start of large-scale Russian aggression.
It is worth recalling that ARC experts have been proving for the last two years that the “Crimean Anti-Plague Station”, controlled by the occupiers, has indeed been conducting criminal research hidden from world science since at least 2015. The Association’s 2021 investigation stated that most likely, judging by the identified “purchases” of local “epidemiologists,” they were criminally working on the damaging effect of bacterial strains, including tularemia.
Also, two years ago, ARC experts exposed the criminal activities of the aggressor’s business in exterminating stray animals and polluting the environment of Crimea as part of the massive theft of “budget funds.” The close connection of these businessmen with key fishing enterprises in Russia and with the production of livestock products makes us think about the sanitary safety of Crimean residents, the researchers pointed out.
In addition, in 2021, the ARC pointed to manifestations of self-PR of the illegal “Crimean federal university”, the then leadership of which announced the use of a “vaccine against COVID-19 of its own production” for nasal use at the “university”. The then “rector” announced such a “scientific breakthrough” during a “student graduation,” noting that supposedly “we are one of the few universities in the world that has created its own vaccine. And even some of us once tried it illegally, quietly”, which was an obvious fake.
At the same time, the consequences of large-scale floods in occupied Crimea in 2021, aggravated by the mismanagement of the occupiers, have exacerbated the risks of the spread of epidemics on the peninsula. And the question here is not even about new outbreaks of the COVID-19 coronavirus and “ordinary” intestinal diseases caused by the destruction of sewage systems by the invaders. After all, Crimea is the place of distribution and origin of such generally dangerous diseases as cholera, plague and Crimean-Congo fever. In August 2021, residents of Yalta reported en masse about a strange infection that “knocks them off their feet.” People complained of feeling unwell, noted severe weakness and pain in the heart. “Who experiences such symptoms in Yalta? Very sore throat, throat feels swollen, dry mouth, drowsiness and weakness, literally knocks you off your feet. “It presses slightly in the heart”, people wrote on social networks.
Large-scale Russian aggression intensified the corresponding challenges, because the remnants of “medicine” from the occupiers were illegally oriented towards servicing the wounded military of the aggressor and supplying medicines and medical workers to the occupiers’ units. ARC experts added that mass graves of killed invaders threaten the sanitary and epidemiological situation in the Crimea, since “mobilized” and terrorists from “Wagner” were brought to the occupied territories, both before and after their death, as well as during “rehabilitation” in those captured by the aggressor sanatoriums of the peninsula, spread a number of diseases including hepatitis and other viral infections of various etymologies.
In addition, as the criminal “State veterinary committee” was forced to state in 2023, a difficult situation with “rabies among wild animals” had developed in occupied Crimea, since the invaders were talking about supposedly “prevention through the decomposition of vaccines for animals.” As ARC experts stated in this regard, either there is a massive outbreak of rabies in the Crimean forests, which the occupiers are silent about, or the vaccines declared by the “veterinary committee” are a source of danger, or at least deliberately useless, which the Crimean “veterinarians” also understand when organizing the next “distribution of funds” at “tenders”.
Also, as the invaders were forced to admit in May, in occupied Yevpatoriya, “in one of the schools, a student was diagnosed with measles,” and on this occasion, ARC experts recalled that in Russia itself, previously undetected outbreaks of measles for a long time have become a frequent occurrence in recent years, since a significant part of the population does not undergo routine vaccinations, which is explained both by anti-vaccine propaganda for the uncritical population and, conversely, by the understanding of the level of “efficacy and safety” of Russian vaccines by people with knowledge of medicine. Now, experts added, after nine years of occupation, it is obvious that a generation of children has grown up in the Crimea who have not encountered normal vaccines, which has begun to bear the first negative fruits.
Against this background, on May 6, 2023, in occupied Simferopol, the invaders organized a “press conference” of the illegal “Crimean Agricultural Research Institute” regarding an illegal trip to communist China. However, what is important here is not only the provocation itself regarding the supposedly “external relations” of the occupiers, but also the specifics of the “cooperation”, since the “specialists of the institute” did not hide that the purpose of their trip to Beijing and the illegal “agreements” was the desire to “check how they will behave … microbial preparations on another land in other hands”, which forces us to return to the issue of the above-mentioned illegal research at the “Crimean Anti-Plague Station”.
We should not forget about the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic; Therefore, acting in constant cooperation with UN institutions, the ARC sent a submission to the Office of the UN High Commissioner describing the relevant challenges associated with Russian aggression in the context of the COVID pandemic. The ARC report noted that Russia’s attempt to illegally annex six regions of Ukraine: the AR of Crimea, Sevastopol, Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporozhye regions, their blocking by Russian troops from territory controlled by Ukraine and from third countries makes the population of the territory of Ukraine occupied by the aggressor most vulnerable to problems COVID-19, since there is no opportunity to get a certified vaccination and proper medical care.
The ARC drew the attention of the UN High Commissioner to the fact that the destruction by Russian troops of relevant medical institutions in Ukrainian cities makes the population extremely vulnerable to the problem of COVID-19; in relation to Crimea, this is important because of the above-mentioned occupiers’ illegal “repurposing” of civilian hospitals into military hospitals. New challenges for Crimea arose after the aggressor blew up the Kakhovka hydroelectric station, as it complicated the epidemiological situation in the Black Sea. It should be recalled that during the years of occupation, due to the systemic negligence of the aggressor, treatment and sewerage facilities in many cities and towns of the peninsula, including coastal ones, including Sevastopol, became completely unusable.
Therefore, within the framework of established cooperation, the ARC informed the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on port state control on June 11, 2023 about the negative consequences of Russia’s criminal undermining of the Kakhovka HPP dam, including issues of epidemic risks. Corresponding information was sent to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to development, Professor Surya Deva, for his reports on enhancing the right to development and the role of business in realizing the right to development.
In addition, on June 22, 2023, the “press service” of the criminal “government” of the invaders in Sevastopol tried to “calm down” the population about the high-profile death of a child from meningitis, which had previously been discussed on social networks. The residents of Sevastopol stated that the “medicine” of the occupiers was such that the child had little chance of survival, and reported that the child probably caught the infection after swimming in the Inkerman quarry lake, the water in which was possibly contaminated with something.
The occupiers stated in this regard that it was allegedly “impossible to become infected with meningococcal infection by water,” but no “forensic medical examination” was carried out and it was reported that the child had already been buried. Previously, large-scale outbreaks of meningitis were reported in the occupied city. At the same time, the criminal “head of the interregional department of Rospotrebnadzor” Natalya Penkovskaya was forced to admit that “theoretically, contaminated water bodies could contain pathogens of meningitis”, although viral, but what exactly the child died from, as noted above, the occupiers actually “don’t know.”
ARC recalled that in September 2018, due to an “outbreak of serous meningitis” in occupied Sevastopol, “a quarantine was introduced in educational institutions and kindergartens”, and the causes of the outbreak then allegedly remained “unknown,” as did the facts of the diseases in 2017. Among other things, in the city, due to the criminal negligence of the occupiers, there are virtually no treatment facilities, which makes the doors as wide open as possible for a wide range of infections, especially in the summer.
In August 2023, the criminal “government” was forced to admit that “precautionary measures have now been taken in two groups of kindergartens in Sevastopol after the discovery of a focus of the disease” of my same meningitis. Now the “department of health” still urged citizens to “refrain from swimming in bodies of water,” but allegedly because of some “enterovirus infection”; the occupiers chose not to specify where meningitis was discovered in the kindergarten. This obviously confirms that criminal “officials” actually misinformed the population about possible risks on the eve of the outbreak of a deadly infection.
In addition, since mid-August 2023, social networks in occupied Sevastopol have been discussing an outbreak of an unidentified infection among children in the so-called “children’s camp” “Alkadar” located in Lyubimovka with an abstract general diagnosis of “streptoderma.” The “founders” of “Alkadar” acted through the illegal “firms” “Larand LTD” and “GZL “Foros” with the possibility of their involvement in the sphere of mass organization of sex services under the guise of “daily rental of apartments”.
We pointed out that it was through “Alkadar” that the criminal “city government” of the occupiers laundered funds for “health vouchers for children” for several years; at the same time, the “high quality of services” of the “children’s camp” was allegedly “controlled” by the fake “Ombudsman for Children’s Rights” of the occupiers, Marina Peschanskaya. At the same time, the occupiers were clearly not interested in the epidemic situation in “Alkadar”, but exclusively in its role in the criminal militarization of children.
Subsequently, the fake “prosecutor’s office” of the occupiers “published the results of the inspection in the children’s health camp” and among the “shortcomings” they found only “defects in the coverage of driveways, approaches and paths in the camp territory”, “a number of violations of fire safety legislation” and the like; the occupiers “did not establish” anyone involved in the outbreak among Crimean children of an unidentified skin disease.
Thus, the current challenges and problems of “Crimean medicine” should include not only the lack of high-quality medicines and vaccines for the population, but also the growth in conditions of large-scale aggression of both the actual epidemic challenges and the desire of the occupiers to hide and distort information about epidemic risks and the epidemic state .
We believe that this situation should be reflected both in further scientific publications and in informing authorized international organizations. In addition, government plans for the de-occupation and reintegration of Crimea must take into account the difficult epidemic situation on the peninsula; the corresponding increase in systemic risks should be reflected in specific activities of planned regulatory documents of the Ukrainian authorities and have corresponding separate financial, organizational and personnel support.