Mysterious Environmental Incident Leaves Crimean City Without Birds

Armyansk, a city on the Russian-occupied Crimea Peninsula, has been left without any kind of birds after a mysterious chemical incident at the nearby Crimean Titan plant.

On August 23 – 24, an unknown substance spewed into the atmosphere, covering everything in a rust-like plaque and emanating a foul odor. Social media was buzzing with reports and photos of houses, cars and even plants covered in the mysterious substance, but occupation authorities ignored them for several days. At first, people started noticing that, apart from the occasional crow, there were no more birds in Armyansk, but then things got progressively worse. More and more residents of the Crimean city began experiencing breathing problems, but local authorities and the media completely ignored them.

Photo: Вальдимар/Wikimedia Commons

‘There is no danger’, ‘everything is under control’, ‘atmospheric pollution is at permissible levels’, ‘there are no health hazards’ –  Crimean occupation authorities are going out of their way to reassure the public that there is no environmental danger from the unexpected and unexplained  chemical emissions at the Crimean Titan factory in Armyansk,” reported.

However, things got so bad that on September 4, authorities had no choice but to acknowledge that there was a problem and start evacuating people. Officials kept insisting that there was no threat to public health on the peninsula, but started evacuating children to various camps in the region. On September 4 and 5, close to 3,000 people were evacuated from Armyansk, with over 1,000 more scheduled to be transported out of the city in the following days. Sergei Aksyonov, head of the internationally disputed Republic of Crimea, said that the evacuation was a “purely preventive measure”.


A couple of days after the mysterious environmental incident, Vladimir Putin’s special representative for environmental issues, ecology and transport suddenly arrived in Crimea, and Aksyonov started changing his tune. He admitted that the Crimean Titan plant could be responsible for the emissions, and after originally calling them harmless, he referred to them as harmful.

Although several air quality checks performed by occupation authorities in Crimea all yielded the same result – that there was no increase of harmful concentrations in the atmosphere, at least not past permissible levels – Ukrainian authorities detected high concentrations of sulfur dioxide, a major air pollutant and a precursor to acid rain. Scientists at Odessa University said that sulfur dioxide is a carcinogen and can cause serious damage to the respiratory system.


While it’s not yet clear what caused the rust-like substance to spew into the atmosphere, there are reports that it was caused by an acid lake near the Crimean Titan plant that evaporated. However, no official data about the concentration of sulfur dioxide or the area affected was revealed by occupation authorities. All we know is that the chemical plant has been closed down temporarily.

“I clearly state this: nothing threatens the life and health of citizens. There are no reasons to announce an emergency. However, as a prevention measure, in order to work out all algorithms of action, it was decided to announce holidays for two weeks in schools and kindergartens… They will be organized for the state money and the operative headquarters will be created,” Sergei Aksyonov insists.

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