Chemical weapons off the coast of Crimea: one day barrels of mustard gas and lewisite can "wake up"

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Chemical weapons off the coast of Crimea: one day barrels of mustard gas and lewisite can "wake up"
Chemical weapons off the coast of Crimea: one day barrels of mustard gas and lewisite can "wake up"
2 December 2021, 11:30SocietyPhoto: nefte.livejournal.com
Before the capture of Crimea by the Nazis in the fall of 1941, the Red Army sank more than 1,000 containers of chemical weapons along the coastline. Today they are on the brink of collapse due to corrosion.

In Sevastopol, a group of naval officers and warrant officers of the reserve is preparing to go to the Black Sea in search of "burial grounds" with mustard gas and lewisite.

Gennady Charodeyev

Here you need to make a reservation. The fact is that some three decades ago it was believed that when dissolved in a large volume of water, an infernal mixture of mustard gas and lewisite loses its fighting qualities. Military chemists, of course, knew the maximum permissible concentrations and doses, and when all this is dissolved in a huge mass of water, it was believed that even in the event of depressurization, the chemicals would not pose any danger to humans.

Today, the attitude of specialists to this problem has changed dramatically. According to the conclusion of the staff of the laboratory of genome variability at the Institute of General Genetics. N.I. Vavilov Russian Academy of Sciences, mustard gas (or mustard gas) with a high degree of efficiency causes damage to hereditary structures - genes and chromosomes, i.e., leads to mutation. This was established back in the late 1940s in England by Charlotte Auerbach and at the same time in the USSR by the scientist Joseph Rapopport. They argued that even the ingress of individual mustard gas molecules into the human body can lead to harmful consequences - mutations in the cell of the body. For the current generation, this situation threatens with an increase in the number of oncological diseases. For future generations - inherited mental and physical defects.

Lewisite is a persistent poisonous substance. Unlike mustard gas, it does not have a latent period of action; in case of poisoning, pain is immediately felt throughout the body, and then eczema appears. With severe lesions, skin ulcers occur.

Summer 1941 Chemists of the Red Army will comply with Stalin's order
Photo: vm.ru

During the retreat, our military chemists had no right to leave such a terrible weapon to the fascists. And besides, the use of mustard gas and lewisite was prohibited by decisions of several international conventions. Apparently, for this reason, the presence of OV in the arsenals of the Red Army should have remained a secret.

A few witnesses of those events swore on their party membership cards that “they would never tell anyone about this, and the reports on the work done and the archives of the NKVD were simply destroyed.

In his memoirs, the captain of the 1st rank N. Rybalko, who in the period 1938-1945. served as the flagship chemist of the Black Sea Fleet, wrote:

“For several nights, chemical munitions were secretly transported to the pier in the Cossack Bay, where they were loaded onto the Papaninets schooner, which with this cargo went to the point of the open sea indicated to her. Dangerous cargo was dropped from it. By June 29, this operation was successfully completed. The enemy got nothing".

They drowned in a hurry, of course, without thinking about people, about the consequences for the ecology of Crimea. There was a war...

Containers with mustard gas at the bottom of the Black Sea
Photo: fishindustry.com.ua

Half a century later, Ukraine started looking for containers. But the chronic lack of money did not contribute to active research. Only in 2004 did the Ministry of Ecology instruct the ecological enterprise Sitall to conduct exploration of the Black Sea. And the money was found - Americans appeared in Kiev, who from somewhere learned about the steel barrels dumped in the sea. They agreed to finance the expedition, the participants of which were given a specific task - to find and map the burial sites of toxic substances.

Soon, search engines found about 500 containers at the bottom of the Black Sea. When these data got to the official authorities of Ukraine, they were classified for the second time in Kiev. Of course, the next holiday season was disrupted!

Nevertheless, the agency "New Region" then published the data of a closed study of the Kharkov scientific laboratory "Voenkonveer 43". In it, in particular, it was said that when searching for flooded OM, a significant part of the Black Sea coast of Crimea with an area of 1,500 sq. km. Several areas with flooded containers were found.

The searchers were shocked when they discovered that 24 barrels with dangerous chemical poisons were buried right under the famous "Swallow's Nest" in Yalta at a depth of only 5 meters.

According to the head of Sitall, a naval sailor and diver Gennady Rubtsov, "the barrels are probably already leaking." This was evidenced by the initial water samples taken by ecologists at the “Swallow's Nest”. Rubtsov believes that there are at least 1,200 containers of poison off the Black Sea coast, and another 300 need to be looked for at the bottom of the Sea of Azov.

In 2008, when work on the search for chemical weapons was in full swing, the Americans, suspecting the Ukrainians of stealing money, stopped funding the project and left. According to some reports, they also took with them a map indicating points on the Crimean coast, where containers with mustard gas and lewisite were found.

Since 2014, all issues related to the search for and destruction of toxic chemicals have fallen on the shoulders of the Russian authorities. The Crimeans now have a hope that now the search for OV will continue, and Moscow will do everything possible to save the world-famous resorts from an environmental catastrophe. But it was not there.

At a press conference in September 2014, representatives of the new authorities said that "there is no reason for concern." Indeed, the Russian Emergencies Ministry already in October announced the start of prospecting work in the water area of the Kerch Strait and in the Yalta region. Units of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, as well as environmental services and independent volunteers worked on the spot. The official reports said that soil was taken from the bottom of the sea, water samples were taken from various depths, the roots of plants that were in the search squares were studied. All analyzes showed ... the absence of any toxic substances in the sea water.

At the bottom of the Black Sea near Sevastopol there are also containers
Photo:studic.info

“Unfortunately”, - said Vladimir Ivanov, Assistant to the Head of the Main Territorial Directorate of the Ministry of Emergency Situations in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea for interaction with the media and public relations, in an interview with reporters, the project participants did not have an exact coordinate system, - At least, judging by the papers that were presented to us. And the historical archival data, alas, are still classified".

The Crimean authorities, ecologists, nature protection organizations have repeatedly appealed to the country's leadership with a request to allocate funds to continue work on the neutralization of chemical weapons, but all their writings remained unanswered - the program actually turned out to be “buried”.

“The whole point is that the Black Sea has been repeatedly examined for the presence of toxic substances, but not a single search has been completed”, - complained to Novye Izvestia the President of the World Ocean Foundation, Doctor of Technical Sciences, Professor, Vice -Admiral of the reserve Tengiz Borisov. - When in the nineties I headed the Russian Committee for Special Purpose Underwater Works, the management set the task - to determine all potentially hazardous from an environmental point of view objects on the bottom of inland water bodies, rivers, seas and oceans that surround Russia. We were given written testimonies of the participants in the burials in the Black Sea. It turned out, for example, that during the storage of OM in army warehouses, there was no question of any tightness of containers. Chemicals were poured into all containers that came to hand. The shells with a chemical filling were simply loaded into whatever they could find - and they drowned it. No one took any precautions at the time of the flooding. Yes, and the Red Army did not know at that time about the carcinogenic or mutagenic properties of mustard gas. In fairness, it should be noted that then no one in the world knew about them at all. Our people were in a hurry to destroy everything before the arrival of the enemy. And already nowadays they remembered about the flooded substances in Crimea only after fishermen in the Baltic Sea accidentally fished out barrels with chemical weapons. Then there were accidents, people and the environment suffered in Sweden, Denmark, Poland. And before that, no one knew about the Black Sea, or rather, did not remember.

According to the vice admiral, the Sevastopol search team under the leadership of Gennady Rubtsov did indeed manage to find 508 containers off the coast of the Crimean coast, the flooding places of which were approximately known in advance. Found them in different places. The barrels were not touched, they were not raised, they simply recorded the places where they were found on the map. The obtained information was transferred to the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Ukraine and the Americans. But where else 692 barrels of mustard gas are still a mystery.

- Seeing such a situation, naval officers and reserve warrant officers gathered in Sevastopol - professionals in carrying out special underwater work. It was decided to equip an expedition to determine the burial places of containers with chemical weapons. To begin with, we created the Marine Systems company, whose task is to conduct prospecting work in the Black Sea. By the way, the sailors turned to their Ukrainian colleagues with a proposal to create a joint venture, but they, for obvious reasons, refused.

"On behalf of the World Ocean Foundation, I turned to the highest authorities with a request to help the sailors in their project to save the Crimean coast from an environmental disaster. In response - complete silence. But we hope that it will be possible to find funding for the search and development of a plan for the disposal of chemical weapons at the bottom of the Black Sea. Today there are people who help us completely disinterestedly, understanding the danger that mustard gas and lewisite pose to the environment and to man himself. All the same, we will have to deal with this, no matter how officials conceal the problem", - said Borisov.

According to the vice admiral, most likely, the barrels with OM will need to be loaded into large sealed containers. Then take them for processing or disposal. The second option is to reburial barrels of mustard gas at great depths. Serious work lies ahead in the Sea of Azov. The danger is that it is shallow - the maximum depth is 14-15 meters.

Among the large army of conservationists, Rear Admiral of the Reserve Vladimir Dudko is well known, who is actively involved in the problems of the ecology of the seas and oceans. This is what he said to "Novye Izvestia":

Photo:hak3.ru

"We are now preparing a large program to eliminate the consequences of chemical contamination. This also applies to the Black Sea. To do this, it is necessary to raise the public and be sure to involve representatives of the presidential administration, with whom I am scheduled to meet, in the rally. We expect that eventually our joint appeal to the country's leadership on organizing the disposal of Soviet-made chemical weapons containers, which are on the verge of destruction, should appear. I dare to hope that President Vladimir Putin will instruct the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation to provide the necessary assistance to a specially trained group of search engines for the disposal of hazardous containers. It is no longer possible to wait - the barrels with mustard gas and lewisite may collapse".

Experts believe that it is almost impossible to lift them to the surface and dispose of them in the usual way. This means that there is only one way out - to close the barrels found under water with a special cocoon. Fortunately, Russia has both technologies and materials for this, says Rear Admiral Vladimir Dudko.

Submerged chemical weapons during the Great Patriotic War, according to preliminary data, may be located in the following areas of the Crimean coast:

the village of Chernomorskoye (western part of the Crimean peninsula);

Cape Dangerous (near Alupka);

Cape Sotera (near Alushta);

Cape Schroni (near Kerch);

Cossack Bay (near Sevastopol);

Cape Khersones (the westernmost point of Sevastopol);

Yalta (area of the "Swallow's Nest"),

Cape Bely (northeastern end of Feklistov Island);

Cape Kazantip (north-east of the Crimean peninsula);

Marble Bay or Echo Bay (at the foot of the Kaya-Bash ridge);

Cape Lukul (southern part of the entrance to the Kalamitsky Gulf);

Photo: reklama-crimea.com

The central part of the Azov Sea.

Everything is clear to specialists. It's up to politicians, entrepreneurs and financiers. Our Crimea must be free of chemical weapons, they are sure.

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