Virtual museum of Russian aggression.

Virtual museum of Russian aggression.



On the TITAN’s shoulders: economic potential of the chemical enterprise

Titanium is commonly seen as the metal of the future, and its mining is a promising and highly profitable business. Titanium dioxide is used for the manufacture of paints, plastics, resin elastic, rubber, paper and many other materials and products. Modern technologies of titanium production worldwide are diverse, whereas the outdated methods are extremely dangerous for the environment and human life.

Crimea TITAN is the largest producer and main supplier of titanium dioxide in Eastern Europe. The first plant was commissioned in 1969. The enterprise also produces other chemical products: iron oxide pigments, mineral fertilizers, sulfuric acid, aluminum sulfate, sodium aluminate, liquid glass, ferrous sulfate and phosphogypsum.

Located on the part of Perekop isthmus that connects Crimea and the mainland of Ukraine, the plant needs modernization. In the late 1990s, the state-owned enterprise was partially incorporated. In 2011, Viktor Yanukovych signed a law removing the Crimean Production Association Titan, along with 9 other Ukrainian enterprises, from the list of state property objects that were not subject to privatization. And in December 2012, 100% of shares of CJSC Crimea TITAN were acquired by Ostchem Germany GmbH, a company of the Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Firtash (who had formerly owned 50% -1 share of the enterprise).

This is a strategically important facility for Ukraine. Crimea TITAN, as well the Crimean Soda Plant, another major asset of Dmytro Firtash, now located in the temporarily occupied Krasnoperekopsk are among the leading chemical enterprises in Crimea. The annual capacity of the plant is up to 80 thousand tons of titanium dioxide; before the Russian aggression, it employed 4.9 thousand people. About 80% of the company's output was exported to over 60 countries, including China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Turkey, Italy, Germany, Iran, Brazil, Canada and Mexico. A new expensive sulfuric acid production facility conforming to international environmental safety standards was formally commissioned in 2012.

The company depends on feedstocks from Zhytomyr Oblast and Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, and it also needs water from the North Crimean Canal and electricity from Ukraine. Some of the workers are residents of the neighboring Kherson Oblast.

TITAN under sanctions: unsustainable attitude of the aggressor

Conducted in 2014 contrary to international laws and even to Russian laws, the so-called "nationalization" of state and private property in Crimea had a considerable impact on the regional economy. The owner of the chemical plant in Armyansk, however, chose to do things in a manner that meant profit to his business and loss for Ukraine – operating in two jurisdictions simultaneously. Crimea TITAN has changed its Ukrainian registration, now it goes by the name of CJSC Ukrainian Chemical Products with its central office in Kyiv. Crimean assets, registered as the Armyansk branch of the company, have been leased to Titanium Investments LLC – a new legal entity incorporated under the Russian law. This way, the Russian company is responsible for the processing of feedstocks coming from Ukraine, and the Kyiv-based company is responsible for the sale of products. The Russian company collects the profits from the output. This working scheme was adopted mainly by big businesses on the peninsula.

This and other similar schemes have caused outrage among the public in Ukraine. Activists blocked the land crossing points on the administrative border with Crimea for freight transport. By the end of September 2015, the commodity blockade hit the chemical plant as well. Finally, in December 2015, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine decided to ban the supply of goods, works and services under all customs procedures from Ukraine to the temporarily occupied territory. However, this did not stop the highly lucrative production at the Crimea TITAN. A number of sea freight schemes are known to be in effect, to facilitate the supply of raw ilmenite from Ukraine to the plant in Armyansk, including delivery via the ports of Turkey and Egypt.

The owner of the company is known to be a pro-Russian oligarch who even before 2014 tied his production facilities with Russian business, specifically in the sphere of insurance. Now Dmytro Firtash's assets are frozen. Criminal proceedings are underway in the USA where the oligarch is facing charges of corruption. In September 2019, Sergey Aksyonov , the head of occupation administration of Crimea, announced that the company received a new owner whose name was not disclosed. Aksynov also threatened to nationalize the plant.

In addition to unsustainable exploitation of industrial facilities in Crimea, Russia used similar large enterprises to leverage its claims for restoring of water supply from Ukraine. Meanwhile, in contrast to industrial facilities, the town of Armyansk takes water from the Iskhodnensky water intake facility rather than from the blocked canal that used to carry the Dnipro water.

The enterprise generates different kinds of waste: phosphogypsum, pyrite cinders, hydrolysis acid, flushing acid, etc. The latter are stored at the phosphogypsum storage and in the acid storage reservoirs in Chaplynsky Raion of Kherson Oblast. Interaction of substances dumped into the acid storage reservoirs generates new, even more hazardous compounds. Substances from the acid reservoir infiltrate into the Iskhodnensky water intake facility – the only source of potable water for Armyansk. Potential seepage into other underground aquifers and further into the potable water of settlements in Kherson Oblast is a likewise grave concern.

The enterprise dumps its waste into sedimentation reservoirs in Kherson Oblast but does not pay any environmental tax in Ukraine. The company has submitted a notice, that it would allegedly discontinue the production due to the occupation.

TITAN under occupation: environmental disaster

A major environmental disaster in the region on a scale that is still kept secret happened as the result of unlawful economic activity of the Russian side in Crimea, including neglect of security measures and procedural violations.

The disaster broke out at the plant on the night of 08/24/2018, resulting in a discharge of an unknown substance into the atmosphere, tentatively identified as sulfur dioxide. Recurring discharges happened on 03 and 04/09/2018. Residents of both the temporarily occupied peninsula (a considerable area of the Krasnoperekopsk Raion) and Kherson Oblast (parts of Kalanchak and Chaplynka Raions) were the worst affected.

Discharges of toxic substances posed a hazard to human life and health, and polluted the environment. Local residents complained about a metallic taste in the mouth, heartburn, labored breathing, cough, inflammation of mucous membranes in the mouth, nose, throat and eyes, and burns of the respiratory tract. Some people were hospitalized, but mostly they were diagnosed with acute respiratory viral infection or allergy. In the towns and villages nearby, metal objects were oxidized, leaves fell from the trees, the air had a strong acidic odor, and machinery failed. The air pollution and sulfurous fog made people buy face masks on a mass scale. A considerable material damage has been inflicted, the crops were destroyed.

Representatives of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine were the first to report the hazardous emergency at the enterprise. Ukrainian border guards in Kherson Oblast near the administrative border with Crimea were affected, 61 had to seek medical assistance. Inspection of the Kalanchak checkpoint detected traces of corrosion and oily yellow film on metal structures. Under the environmental impact of this extent, Kalanchak and Chaplynka checkpoints had to be shut down. Safe operation of the chemical plant has been further jeopardized by the occupation forces and the FSB border guards of the Russian Federation conducting combat training and shooting exercises close to Perekop isthmus.

Competent authorities took probes within the territories controlled by Ukraine. On 08.31.2018, the State Ecological Inspectorate of Ukraine detected doubling in the concentration of sulfates in the soil. On 09/01/2018, the laboratory of Kherson Regional Water Resources Administration checked water samples and recorded the following indicators in excess of the norm: mineralization – 2.4 times, chemical bonding of oxygen – 6.3 times, total iron – 9.7 times, chlorides – 2.2 times, water hardness – 3.5 times. Findings of further studies indicated that the pollution reached life-threatening levels for humans.

On 09/04/2018, the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner of the Verkhovna Rada communicated data on hazardous pollutant discharges in the area around Armyansk to the UN, OSCE, WHO and to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons of Ukraine published satellite images of the roofs of the plant, where repair crews were seen on 09/09/2018. The pollution occurred most likely due to procedural violations, but actual reasons proved hard to establish, considering the circumstances of the temporary occupation.

For a long time, the invaders concealed the source and causes of the pollution. Leaflets about titanium chloride were distributed, even though the company used a different production technology. There was no current information. On 09/01/2018, schoolchildren and their parents flooded the polluted streets as first day of school festivities were held all over town.

The occupation administration announced the evacuation of children from Armyansk only 12 days after the first discharge. However, the term "evacuation" was carefully avoided, as the authorities insistently called it "extended vacation" instead.

Confusing statements continued after another toxic discharge on the night of 09/14/2018. The so-called head of the "Civil Defense Department of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Emergencies of Russia in Crimea" Alexei Fridman announced the state of emergency in Armyansk, citing the "content of hazardous air pollutants five times higher than permissible under applicable regulations". Meanwhile, the so-called "Rospotrebnadzor Administration" [Ed: Russian consumer rights authority] claimed that there were no cases of toxic poisoning.

Eventually, though, the plant went into temporary shutdown. However, contrary to the expectations and statements of the occupants, its operation was resumed in October 2018. After the catastrophic events in the north of Crimea, increased pollution of air, soil and water has been recorded annually.


In Kyiv, the authorities have been concerned with the problem of Crimea TITAN at the highest level, along with other issues of national security. The government was instructed to make arrangements for publication of updates on environmental pollution in the north of the temporarily occupied territory of Crimea, and to take measures for the prevention of harmful effects on health and property of the citizens.

The Prosecutor's Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol opened criminal proceedings under Article 241 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine – Air pollution. The police are considering three versions for this offense: improper operation of the plant’s equipment; damage to the waste tanks caused by military exercises carried out by the armed forces of the Russian Federation; deliberate discharge of pollutants with the purpose to launch a large-scale information campaign against Ukraine and to destabilize the situation in the south of Kherson Oblast. In any case, the occupying state breached the environmental rights of the Ukrainian citizens.

The occupation authorities admitted that the chemical discharge was caused by evaporation from the acid storage facilities at the Crimea TITAN plant. On 02/19/2021, the so-called Krasnoperekopsk District Court under the occupation administration of Crimea started proceedings on this criminal case. The former head of the enterprise Andrei Akulov was charged under Article 247 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation – Violation of the rules of handling of the environmentally hazardous substances and waste, and Article 251 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation – Air pollution. The plaintiffs were the town administration of Armyansk, companies Rosgranstroy, Krymenergo and Krymovoshch. The session was held behind closed doors.

Meanwhile, the demand for the plant's products has been on the rise. According to environmentalists, the Crimea TITAN applies the production technology that is cheap but extremely harmful to the environment. Modern economies have been retiring it. The production facility requires deep modernization and, therefore, the intellectual capital. Instead, talented scientists have been fleeing the peninsula. For example, according to the general director of Velta (a company successfully mining titanium raw materials in Kirovohrad Oblast that has patented a green method for affordable titanium production), their impressive performance is mainly due to highly qualified personnel: "A team of scientists from Crimea is the backbone of our company, they did not want to live in the occupied territory."

Background information

Environmental offenses in Crimea

Published on 2021-09-01

Olga Volyanyuk

Security Environment Research Center «Prometheus»


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