Doctor Pēteris Apinis: If giant chemical plants producing pesticides fall into Russian hands, an even bigger catastrophe could happen

"If a Russian soldier, the kind of soldier like the one who happened to accidentally shoot down a Malaysian passenger plane, lands a missile in one of the Dnieper hydropower plants, the current will destroy all the hydropower plants downstream and the Enerhodar nuclear power plant (NPP) will be left without cooling. In such a scenario, large parts of Ukraine - including Crimea and Donbas - would become uninhabitable," predicts doctor Pēteris Apinis. Today we talk about the biggest risks in this war against Ukraine by fascist Russia.
07.03.2022. Elita Veidemane
©Ģirts Ozoliņš/F64

As a doctor, are you worried about war or - even more - nuclear war?

I am a pacifist, I hate war. War means not only dead and wounded, war means a huge depletion of the planet's living resources. Huge pollution, loss of biodiversity. But you don't want me to repeat everything that portals and social networks have already written.

Today, the Russian army is already at Enerhodar, where Europe's largest nuclear power plant is located...

I was convinced that I would live my life without war and without the atomic bomb. Now I am not so sure that we will not see a mushroom cloud. I am not so much worried about the use of atomic weapons as about a nuclear or chemical catastrophe.

The Dnieper is a great river in Ukraine, and not only are there large cities located near it, but there are also six (one could say eight) large hydroelectric power stations with large reservoirs on it. And the largest, the Nova Kakhovka reservoir, is home to Enerhodar, with the largest NPP in Europe. And then there are the giant thermal power plants. The nuclear power plant is cooled by the Nova Kakhovka reservoir. If there is no reservoir, there is a nuclear disaster.

What worries me most about this war is the ability of the Russian soldier to follow, to put it mildly, unconventional decisions.

If a Russian soldier, the kind of soldier like the one who happened to accidentally shoot down a Malaysian passenger plane, lands a missile in one of the Dnieper hydropower plants, the current will destroy all the hydropower plants downstream and the Enerhodar nuclear power plant (NPP) will be left without cooling. In such a scenario, large parts of Ukraine - including Crimea and Donbas - would become uninhabitable. It is widely believed that a catastrophe at Enerhodar would exceed the destruction capacity of Chernobyl a hundred times.

The invasion of the Russian army will result in the flight of nuclear physicists and engineers from the Enerhodar plant. And the Russian army, which will start to lose the war, may deliberately cause a nuclear accident by trying to "frame" the Ukrainians in the public sphere.

The war criminal Putin has already managed to rattle his nuclear weapons, or at least to dust them off.

From this point of view, we should remember Anton Chekhov, who said that if a gun is hanging on the wall in the first act of a play, it is bound to go off in the last act. If Putin showed a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead in the first act of the war, then someone on this globe will see a mushroom cloud.

I am in touch with my colleagues in America who are fighting global pollution at the world level. Of course, America is far away, you cannot see everything from there, but they say that the giant chemical factories that produce pesticides for Ukraine are about to fall into Russian hands, but an accident in a pesticide factory is already a disaster on another scale.

The world's absolute biggest accident took place in India, in Bhopal, in 1984, on the night of December 2-3. A gas explosion occurred at the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide factory, and the explosion exposed people mainly to methyl isocyanate. The Indian government confirmed 3,787 deaths, another 8,000 people died within two weeks. 558,125 injuries were recorded, of which 38,478 were severe.

I have not found sufficient confirmation of the information that the Indian plant was built by Soviet specialists, but my colleagues claim that it was.

And yet, all the signs are that the war for fuel is about to begin. All the fuel depots will be bombed, and for a few more nights Ukraine will be illuminated. Pesticide production is very energy-intensive, but blowing up a factory's fuel tanks could end in a terrible disaster.

And yet, don't nuclear weapons in Putin's hands mean World War III?

To quote the classics. Albert Einstein once reportedly commented to Edgar Truman on the possible use of nuclear weapons: "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

If we are lucky and avoid nuclear war, how long can this war go on?

When will Russia finally be defeated, you ask me? I am reminded of 1991. I was preparing the July magazine, and I asked questions to ten doctors who were involved in politics, one of which was: "When will Latvia finally be free?" The answers were evasive, but one of them has stayed with me. Aigars Migals, a radiologist at Stradiņš Hospital and the author of the idea of the Doctors' Society, said: "I have to sadden you all. It won't happen for at least another month." He was right: at the end of August, the putsch took place and Latvia opened the door to independence.

This time I will be more pessimistic: it will be at least three months before the Ukrainian army begins to drive the Russian forces out, including from Crimea.

I am also very afraid of the bad scenario, but I believe in the good scenario.

The Russians in Ukraine will tire, they will fail to achieve their objectives, the soldiers will be unmotivated and will willingly surrender to captivity. If the Ukrainians start to gain the initiative, NATO leaders will stop trembling in fear and start supplying the Ukrainians with tanks and missiles. The Ukrainians will drive American tanks into Crimea and the Donbas.

If this scenario comes to pass, the Georgians will remember South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which were taken from them, and where there will be no Russian army at that point. If Russia loses the war, there will be a period of confusion. And that will be the moment when Latvians will have to go after 1075.31 square kilometers of their land - the town of Abrene and the parishes of Purvmala, Linava, Kacēni, Upmale, Gauri and Augšpils, which were brutally taken from us in 1944.

I do not want to be mean, but I remember Putin's saying about the ears of a dead donkey. Who knows in what context this saying will have to be used if Putin loses the Ukraine affair.

Do you really think that we could get Abrene back?

To begin with, the Ukrainian war is not a new technique, and Putin's objective is some weird referendum in one or other of Ukraine's municipalities that gives him the right to decide on part or all of Ukraine.

A referendum at gunpoint is his favorite political solution. In this way, Moldova has had the Transnistrian Republic separated from it, Georgia has had Abkhazia and South Ossetia separated from it and, to some extent, Russian guns have pushed the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in one direction or another.

It is true that such moves have also been made elsewhere in Europe without Russian support, for example, in the case of Kosovo, which was taken from Serbia. The great powers love to rattle sabers and redistribute borders.

However, Latvians should always remember that we have been deprived of Abrene with six parishes, Estonia of the Petseri county, and Finland of Eastern Karelia with Viipuri, Salla and Petsamo.

First of all, we must remind ourselves that we have been brutally deprived of our land, our town and our parishes, with their churches, schools, hospital, central station and Latvian cemeteries. And we must get this message across to the Estonians and the Finns. Historians and lawyers should already now be going through the documents on the retaking of Abrene.

Eižens Finks is reported to have said that Latvia will get its lands back.

I think that Finks' predictions are the rhetoric of oral retellings. And this rhetoric says that Finks predicted that when Russia started a war and lost, Latvia would get its lands back. Perhaps he foresaw Russia's war in Afghanistan and the collapse of the USSR. But maybe not.

But the thing about Finks' predictions is this: back in 1989, during the First World Congress of Latvian Doctors, I myself published Finks' prediction that in a year that would be written the same on both ends, and when the lilacs blossomed in April, Latvia would be free. Believe it or not, the only time in my lifetime that lilacs bloomed on April 29 in Riga was in 1991. So now we can prepare for Russia to lose the war, as predicted by Finks.

Okay, but with these stories, you are actually assuming that Russia could collapse.

I have worked as a doctor in Siberia, I have studied in Moscow, I have many friends in Russia. I have no problems speaking Russian. And I am fascinated by Russian music, Russian literature and Russian theatre. Russian language and culture is a very important part of the world. And I am not at all happy that in my lifetime Russia will collapse and go into the dustbin of history.

The study of history is difficult. Children in Kazan and Ufa are now learning in Russian at school that the greatest evil on Russian territory was the Tatar warriors, whose direct descendants are these people of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. If we follow the public interpretation of history in Russia today, it turns out that the Ukrainians are the same Russians who have been artificially separated by the historical wrongdoings of the evil Tatars and the evil Poles. The Tatar warriors, whose descendants make up at least a quarter of the mighty Russian army, are publicly vilified. The mighty Mongol/Tatar khans who split up Eastern Europe six centuries ago could hardly have imagined that their actions would be recognized as the blackest page in history.

I doubt that Putin and his cronies imagine that their actions will not be judged in the future in bright and sunny colors. The Ukrainian catastrophe will still be remembered seventy years from now by our contemporaries of today, and thirty years from now by people of my generation. And then let us see what happens to Putin's much-loved referendums in those thirty years.

The most dangerous referendum for Russia will take place in Kaliningrad. With good Western PR, the people of this region will be given the dream of life in rich Western Europe. Suddenly, the people of Kaliningrad will remember all five phrases they know in German (such as "Hitler kaput" and "Volkswagen - das bestes Auto") and vote overwhelmingly for autonomy or, even crazier, for accession to Germany. But Germany would deserve a few million people demanding Russian as a second national language from time to time, would it not?

A much more realistic scenario is the accession of part of Southern Siberia to China. Already now, the Chinese are a minority in Blagoveshchensk.

It would not be difficult to imagine that some of the inhabitants of the Pacific islands belonging to Russia would be keen to have the social guarantees and citizenship status of Japan.

Moscow is now the largest Muslim city north of Istanbul. No, no, I do not wish to make any predictions. But, nevertheless, the news that Serbia has been stripped of its historic territory, the homeland of the Orthodox Church, Kosovo, where the Muslim Albanian minority grew significantly, while the ethnic Serb population dwindled, does not bring peace. In Russia, the number of Russians is now falling by at least 50,000 per month.

You have painted a stark picture, not here, but in Russia. But what if Putin wins the war in Ukraine and turns against the Baltic States?

Actually, I have long wanted to know where my Javelin is. My orienteering skills will be good so that I know where to expect Russian tanks. But it is actually a much broader question - mainly about the knowledge and ability of our people to defend themselves and save others. I am ready to tell you a lot, but you don't have room for another 100,000 characters, do you?

So let's leave it for next time - in the hope that your best-case scenario comes true.

It's a deal.


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