New maps based on satellite imagery appear to show that vegetation on Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula is drying up at an alarming rate, raising new questions about water supplies in the Russian-annexed region.
The imagery was released on July 13 by the Ukrainian government ministry set up to oversee affairs in Crimea, which has all but been cut off from the Ukrainian mainland since being seized by Russia in March 2014.
The images show two color-coded maps of vegetation cover in Crimea and the mainland region immediately to the north of the peninsula, from 2016 and 2018.
The newer map, according to the Ministry for Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons of Ukraine, showed vegetation had declined to record low levels on most of the northern, eastern, and western districts of the peninsula. The southern region, where Yalta and the other famous beach resorts are located, appears less affected.
The Black Sea region has long been known for hot, dry summers, a feature that has made it a destination for vacationers stretching back centuries. About 2 million people live on the peninsula full-time and millions more vacationers come during the summer months.
The ministry said low rainfall was to blame along with “the careless attitude of the occupation authority of the Russian Federation.”
RFE/RL cannot corroborate the findings in the maps. Neither the Ukrainian ministry nor any Russian authorities could be reached for comment late on July 13.
But the findings dovetail with news accounts from this year and previous years documenting the increasing frequency of water shortages.
Following Russia’s 2014 annexation, Ukraine all but cut off the peninsula from the mainland.
Water supplies have been intermittent since the annexation, as Ukrainian state water agencies stopped flows through a major canal in 2014, citing millions in outstanding debts from the peninsula’s administration.
Earlier this month, Sergei Aksyonov, the head of the Russian-imposed government in Crimea, requested urgent financial assistance from Moscow citing drought conditions in several districts.
In May, Russia inaugurated a major new bridge connecting Crimea to the Russian mainland, which authorities hope will ease some of the commerce bottlenecks.