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Daghestani soldiers appeal to republic head to halt landfill construction near Sarykum

15 September 2023
Daghestani soldiers fighting in Ukraine appealing to Daghestan’s Head Sergei Melikov to halt the construction of the landfill. Screengrab via Caucasian Knot.

Three Daghestani soldiers fighting in Ukraine have appealed to Head of Daghestan Sergei Melikov to halt the construction of a landfill near Sarykum sand dune, citing environmental concerns.

On 14 September, three Russian soldiers from Daghestan published a video address to Melikov. The video was presumably shot in Ukraine.

They called on Melikov to stop the construction of a landfill next to the sand dune, as it ‘threatens the lives of [our] loved ones and the ecological future of Daghestan’.

‘We, natives of the Kumtorkala region, appeal to you to stop this chaos in the Kumtorkala region and move the construction of the landfill to a place further from populated areas’, says one of the soldiers in the video, urging Melikov to take the ‘necessary measures’ to protect the ecological site.

This was the second such appeal made by Daghestani fighters stationed in Ukraine about constructions in the vicinity of Sarykum; on 29 August, another group of fighters criticised the head of Daghestan for allowing the establishment of a military training ground near the sand dune.

Sarykum is located inside the Daghestan Nature Reserve northwest of Makhachkala. The region is known for its biodiversity and being home to pastureland, vineyards, and orchards. 

The landfill is planned to be built on a poppy field.

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Caucasian Knot has reported that video appeals from soldiers sent to fight in Ukraine to Melikov have become commonplace, and often address ‘everyday issues that are not resolved at the local level’.

The residents of Novaya Urada, a village located just northwest of Sarykum, have been protesting the landfill construction since March.

Protests broke out again in Novaya Urada and nearby settlements in April, as protesters claimed that the landfill could contribute to underground pollution in the nearby hot sulphur springs and damage the ecology of Sarykum.

Construction of the facility was suspended in May, but resumed in August, after Melikov said there would be an modern and environmentally friendly on-site complex that would operate without harmful emissions.

‘I take responsibility, not as the head of the republic, but as Sergei Alimovich Melikov, that this facility will not harm anyone’, said the head of the republic during a conversation with residents of nearby settlements.

On 7 September, residents again organised a protest against the landfill as the authorities held a presentation in the area about the creation of infrastructure for  the management of solid municipal waste. Only six protesters were allowed to attend the presentation.

Eight people were detained at the protest but were subsequently released two days later.