Russia faces struggle to wean Crimea economy off Ukraine supplies

DZHANKOI/SIMFEROPOL Crimea | Scrambling to compensate for a lack of water from mainland Ukraine, farmhands are laying row after row of pipe to drip water across dusty fields in Crimea’s arid north.

The water shortage highlights the huge logistical hurdles Russia faces to wean Crimea off dependence on Ukraine, from which it seized the Black Sea peninsula in March.

More than two months after the annexation, denounced as illegal by Kiev and the West, Moscow needs to secure Crimea’s basic needs – chief among them, the water and power almost entirely supplied from Ukraine – in order to prop up the local economy and sustain its popularity among its 2 million people.

“We’ve drilled wells, we’re using drip irrigation, but there’s still not enough water,” said Vasily, a burly man whose 50-hectare (124-acre) vegetable farm near Dzhankoi has been irrigated by water from the Dnieper river diverted along a canal across a strip of land that links Crimea to the mainland.

He and other farmers have planted less thirsty crops since, they say, Ukraine reduced flows across its new de facto border with Russian-controlled Crimea – a move Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev decried as political retribution. Ukrainian officials say water is still flowing but will not say how much.

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