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Saturday 19.08.2017 | Name days: Melānija, Imanta

Will the Mayor of Riga Neil Ushakov turn the whole of Latvia into one big powder keg?

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The theory about the goal of all dead-end political fights around the status of Russian language being the hope of ALL parliamentary factions to distract the people of Latvia from real problems has all the rights to exist. Among these problems, alongside with the survival of the majority of the country’s population, is the safety of life as a whole and using government money to fund projects, which lower the level of safety. BNN correspondent in Latgale region ponders about this.

When 10 is larger than 540

Think about it…On the 26th of July 2011 the ruling coalition of the Riga City Council agreed upon Decision #3518 «Of approving the foreseeable actions – transit and creation of a temporary depository of mineral fertilizers in Kundzinsala» in 8 minutes. Simply put, the local government of the capital led by Mayor Neil Ushakov supported the construction of the Uralchem concern terminal in the port. In any other case this decision would have been welcomed, if not for one small thing: 1 050 000 tons of all types of ammonium nitrate will be transported to Riga port each year from Russia through Latgale region, 90 000 tons of this chemical product will be stored in depositories in Riga. And only a monk with the strictest schema could not know that ammonium nitrate has the highest detonating ability, ammonium nitrate – is the main component used by terrorists in manufacturing explosives. The most recent examples – Anders Breivik, who blew up a complex of government buildings in the center of Oslo, and four terrorists, recently arrested in Great Britain, who planned to blow up the London Stock exchange, the City Mayor’s residence and the building housing the Embassy of the United States of America. We remind that the two everyday echelons of ammonium nitrate located on 300km of unsecured railroad from the border Russia to Riga port and the location of the Uralchem terminal so valuable to Ushakov surrounded by a liquefied gas terminal, two oil terminals and a terminal for chemical product transit – are a sweet «treat» for those, who could decide to pay back Americans for supplying their forces in Afghanistan through Latvia.

In September 2011 a special initiative group was formed in Latvia to reason with the capital government: let them build their terminal, but remove one million tons of ammonium nitrate – replace it with some other nomenclature of cargoes, do not turn the country into one big powder keg. After rallying a public meeting in front of the Saeima the initiative group offered Gregory Zubarev the manager of BNN Baltic branch to have a public discussion with Mayor Neil Ushakov on TV-5 television channel. The Mayor of Riga avoided an open discussion, parrying the letter-invitation to the official of the Board of the Free port of Riga, as if, some Mr. Smilga carried the decision most dangerous for the whole country through Riga City Council. A runaround was received instead of a clear answer.

It is as if Neil Ushakov does not notice that not only the capital began to rise, but Ventspils, Rezekne and Daugavpils as well. The cities formed committees to resist the exploitation of Latvian territory to transfer and store ammonium nitrates. Because transport logistics have no alternatives – through either Daugavpils or Rezekne sorting stations, or, if Riga would be closed for ammonium nitrate, hundreds of thousands of tons of potential explosives could be transferred to Ventspils. Ventspilians do not need this kind of «gift» from Uralchem, especially after the leakage of the lethal nitrile acrylic acid on Ventamonjaks terminal.

Signature collection has begun in Riga and Daugavpils – cities put in most risk. Activists demand clarity – can someone of the officials in high ranking departments guarantee the safety of ammonium nitrate transport through its entire route through Latvia. By the 15th of November, the day of the repeated public rally, this time in front of Riga City Council, 540 protest signatures were collected only in Daugavpils alone. Note that the legally required discussion of the «Uralchemical» construction of the century attracted 10(!) local residents, and the notice about the public discussion was only published in Neatkariga Rita Avize newspaper. There is no person who would not know that the level of this independence is determined in the office of the Mayor of Ventspils! The first half of the collected signatures was given to the Mayor of Riga Neil Ushakov during the public rally. And recently a response, filled with casuistry and bureaucratic diversions, was received from the Riga Mayor.

Damocles sword of Ushakov

Mr. Ushakov «clarifies» in the response letter that, according to the conclusion of the State Environment monitoring bureau, the Russian Uralchem terminal is safe. The Mayor delicately misses one small detail: the safety inspection was carried out not by the said organization, but by a Ventspils firm close to Lembergs. But a several years prior to this, experts of the same firm recommended not transporting ammonium nitrates through Ventspils based on ecological reasons and the lack of according guarantees of safety. In his response to the claims of the people, Mr. Ushakov is forced to acknowledge the potential danger of ammonium nitrate, but the following passage from his letter is worth citing: «Risk evaluation was performed using qualitative and quantitative methods of risk evaluation – possible incident developments were accounted for, the possibility of other events and possible incident consequences have also been calculated. Licensed software programs were used to simulate possible emergency consequences

And a particular question immediately arises: where should Mr. Mayor shove his risk evaluation methods and «the possibility of other events and possible incident consequences» along with «licensed software programs» after the railroad catastrophe in Daugavpils? Railroad bed was destroyed, 17 platforms went haywire, including 5 cisterns, filled with black oil and technical solvent. People who inhaled poisonous fumes ended up in hospitals, specialists from Belarus were called in to handle the consequences of the catastrophe, and no one knows how his will affect ecology. So what? Weren’t there any conclusions made by experts in transporting chemical solvents?

Now imagine what would happen if those were 17 cisterns of ammonium nitrate – more than 1000 tons. Breivik used only a car packed with 2.5 tons of ammonium nitrate to blow Oslo sky high. Do you really need to be told what would happen to Riga, not to mention Daugavpils, if this treasure detonated? The Head of Latvijas dzelzcels Ugis Magonis openly stated in an interview to Latvijas radio: «Unfortunately we cannot rule out the possibility that railroad catastrophes will keep on occurring in the future»…So where should we expect it to happen NEXT? If Riga City Council does not care about it, residents of Latgalia do not want to become hostages of the decision being made in the favor of Uralchem and real owners of Riga port.

Therefore the questions Neil Ushakov avoids remain to be topical. He sent a letter to BNN in which he refuses to have a discussion with Gregory Zubarev in direct broadcast. The Reason – the most serious: a very tight working schedule. Of course the pre-election period is over, there is still time before the next elections, and then it will be possible to talk, just how the Mayor of Riga «protects» the interests of the capital’s residents. Right now, it is not worth signing under the claim that it is fact Neil Ushakovs signature under the decision to turn the city given under his responsibility into a warehouse of potential explosives.

In order to freshen up the memory of the Chairman of the Riga City Council, we remind he questions he will need to answer one day:

1. Who would benefit and who would not benefit from filling Riga with ammonium nitrate?

2. Just how clear is the project of the ammonium fertilizer terminal’s construction and were the procedures of this project’s advancement made correctly?

3. How close to reality are the statements made by the Riga City Council concerning economic significance to the State and city budgets of transit and storage of ammonium nitrate?

4. Why did the French city of Dieppe deny the Russian Uralchem holding the right to build a terminal on the shores of La-Manche, but Riga gave them the shore of Daugava?

5. How much does the safety cost and what would happen to Riga in the event of a terrorist act or detonation of 90 thousand tons of ammonium nitrate?

6. What would be the extent of the damage done to Riga if a detonation occurs?


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