Russia-imposed officials in Ukraine's occupied Crimea region say a leak from a chemical factory in the northern part of the peninsula is the cause of an oily film that has coated nearby villages and decimated crops in the area.
Igor Mikhailichenko, the Russia-installed vice premier of Crimea, said on August 30 that "prolonged" high temperatures and dry conditions have exacerbated the problem of leaking substances from an acid storage facility at the Crimea Titan plant, which produces titanium dioxide and other chemicals for use in paints and plastic goods.
"According to preliminary research, the cause is the evaporation of the contents of the acid storage facility used by the [plant]," Mikhailichenko said.
Mikhailichenko said the Russian authorities that control Crimea are looking into whether company management bears any responsibility due to "non-compliance with environmental requirements when handling industrial waste."
The permanent representative of the President of Ukraine in Crimea, Borys Babin, blamed the environmental problems on the illegal activities of enterprises in the northern part of the occupied peninsula. Babin said the situation in some villages was reaching a critical point.
Residents in the villages of Perekop and Armyansk said they first noticed the oily film around August 24.
Some people complained of irritated throats and eyes, while others watched foliage and crops die in a matter of days, sparking health fears as officials searched for the cause.
Sergei Aksenov, the Russia-imposed head of Crimea, admitted on August 28 that the situation was "beyond the norm," but said a preliminary investigation determined there was no threat to the health of residents.
Russia seized and illegally annexed the Crimea region from Ukraine in 2014. The move has led to the imposition of economic sanctions against Russia by the West, which considers the peninsula to be Russian-occupied territory of Ukraine.