Russians Jailed over Black Sea Ammonia Terminal

VOLNA, Krasnodar, Russia, September 5, 2002 (ENS) - Environmental activists protesting the construction of an ammonia terminal by the world's biggest ammonia exporter were beaten and arrested by police who broke up their blockade of Togliattiazot Corporation offices in the southwest Russian town of Volna.

Another protest planned for Friday will target the police brutality as well as the planned ammonia terminal in the nearby town of Taman, a small port town on the Taman Peninsula projecting westward between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. The environmentalists say the terminal construction is illegal.


The Taman Peninsula separates the Black Sea from the Sea of Azov. The "x" marks the approximate location of the controversial ammonia terminal. (Satellite photo courtesy NASA)
Early Tuesday morning, four activists from the Rainbow Keepers Movement and the Movement Against Violence blockaded the Togliattiazot office in Volna. Some 60 people gathered as both entrances to the office were closed by barrels. Activists were chained to each other through the barrels by handcuffs.

The demonstrators planned to reach the Togliattoazot office but instead were stopped by police. People blockaded the street until lines of Togliattiazot Corporation trucks appeared from both sides of the demonstration.

Police managed to get people away from the street without any damage, and the demonstration continued its way to Togliattiazot offices which were empty because of blockade.

Police caught one local resident trying to enter the office, but he was released on account of the demands of the demonstrators.

After four hours, company security together with police from nearby city of Temrjuk unchained the activists. Two activists suffered injuries to their arms as police dismantled the blockade. Seven activists were arrested; two of them were beaten and jailed for five days.

These same environmental groups staged a protest of the planned ammonia terminal at Togliattiazot offices on August 21 which also turned violent. Two men riveted themselves to the office door by their necks and suffered injuries when the police arrived to break up the eight hour long blockade. After a fight, which local residents intervened to stop, police and Taman militia arrested several activists. Three men were jailed for their actions in that incident.

Togliattiazot is one of the world’s largest producers of ammonia, used primarily as a feedstock for the nitrogen fertilizer industry.


Togliattiazot Corporation ammonia manufacturing plant at Togliatti. (Photo courtesy European Bank for Reconstruction and Development)
In their plant at Togliatti on the Volga River, the company uses Russia's abundant natural gas to manufacture the ammonia. It is transported to world markets through a 2,300 kilometer (1,430 mile) pipeline to the Black Sea. From there, the ammonia is shipped around the world, with the United States being the largest customer.

Togliattiazot is interested in optimizing its ammonia exports by constructing a port on the Russian side of the Taman Peninsula which will reduce ammonia transportation costs and shortcut transit through Ukraine.

According to Russian federal documents obtained August 24 by the Social-ecological Union Of the Western Caucasus (SUWC), the planned ammonia terminal would include two moorages and could initally handle two million tons of ammonia, with plans for a future five million ton capacity.

The environmental group says the plan is moving forward due to the "irresponsible policy of federal government with respect to providing of ecological safety and elementary fulfillment of laws and procedures of agreement."

Despite "enormous" environmental impact from the terminal, SUWC says no public hearings have been held, and the plan was prepared without any participation of community and local associations in the cities and populated areas which will be affected by the terminal. A liquid natural gas shipping facility is also proposed for the Taman Peninsula.

Although the Russian Federation approved plans for the ammonia terminal on December 5, 2001 after input from the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Railroads, SUWC says the affected communities have only now received any information about the project.