The Armed Forces of Ukraine continue liberating the Ukrainian land. A lot of evidence of war crimes committed by the Russian invaders against people and nature is being discovered in the de-occupied territories.
A preliminary assessment of the damage caused to the environment of Ukraine by the Russian invasion has already exceeded 36 billion euros. This was stated by the Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine Ruslan Strilets at the meeting of the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety on October 3.
In an hour-long dialogue, the Minister and the members of the European Parliament discussed further cooperation between Ukraine and the EU regarding post-war environmental restoration.
The Minister told the MEPs that Ukraine had developed new methodologies for calculating environmental damage caused by war and would initiate the establishment of a Global Platform for the development of international methodologies for assessing environmental damage caused by military actions.
“We strongly believe that the principles of the European Green Deal should be incorporated in all strategic documents regarding Ukraine’s recovery after the end of hostilities.
Ukraine solves environmental issues together with the civilized world, together with Europe. I thank the representatives of the EU countries for their invaluable support in our fight against barbaric aggression. Only by joint efforts will we be able to force the aggressor country to bear responsibility for the damage caused to the Ukrainian environment,” – Ruslan Strilets said.
In his interview for UkraineWorld Minister Strilets shared more details about the work on mapping the environmental crimes of the Russian occupiers, international support for Ukraine, and plans for the post-war green recovery.
Nuclear and radiation safety threats
The situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant continues to threaten global radiation safety.
On September 30, the Director General of the Zaporizhzhia NPP Ihor Murashov was kidnapped by the Russian military while returning from the plant to his house in Energodar town.
As the IAEA stated, the abduction of the General Director had an immediate and serious impact on decision-making in ensuring the safety and security of the plant.
Thanks to the wide publicity of the extraordinary event and the efforts of the IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, on the evening of October 3, the Russian occupiers released Ihor Murashov from captivity and threw him into the territory controlled by Ukraine. Ihor Murashov is now safe at the ZNPP External Crisis Center in the city of Zaporizhzhia.
On October 1, the IAEA experts at ZNPP reported that several explosions were again heard in the vicinity of ZNPP. These explosions were probably caused by the detonation of land mines installed by the Russian occupiers.
In the October 4 statement, the IAEA experts present at the ZNPP reported that repair work was completed at the sprinkler pond in the area of Unit 5 and Unit 6, which had been damaged from shelling on September 20. The statement also mentioned that the IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi would visit Kyiv and Moscow to continue his consultations aimed at agreeing and implementing a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the ZNPP as soon as possible.
On September 30, 50 participating countries of the IAEA General Conference issued a joint statement, strongly condemning Russia’s actions against nuclear facilities in Ukraine and calling on the Russian Federation to immediately stop any interference at Ukrainian nuclear sites.
On October 5, the Kremlin dictator Putin signed a decree according to which the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant would be transferred to the control of Rosatom. In connection with this decree, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine stated that it considered this decree legally null and void. Ukraine condemns this crime that further increases risks and threats in the sphere of nuclear security caused by the Russian occupation of the ZNPP. Ukraine proposes to the European Union, G7 states, and other partners to immediately consider the imposition of sanctions against Russian state corporation Rosatom and calls on the member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency to restrict cooperation in the framework of any projects with Russia that resorts to undisguised nuclear blackmail of the entire world.
Recent attacks on infrastructure and industry sites
On September 29, Russian troops:
- launched a missile attack at Dnipro, as a result of the attack, more than 60 private houses and several multi-storey buildings were damaged in the city, and a transport company was destroyed. During the fire caused by the missile attack, 52 city buses burned, another 98 were damaged;
- shelled a transformer substation in the Mykolaiv district, causing a fire in an area of 50 square meters.
On September 30, Russians shelled an agro-industrial facility in the Kharkiv region, causing a fire.
On October 1, the occupiers:
- shelled and damaged a warehouse and buildings on the territory of a motor vehicle enterprise in Mykolaiv;
- launched a missile attack on an object of industrial infrastructure in Odesa;
- caused fires by shelling the Kupyansk, Chuguyiv, and Kharkiv districts. The object of the agro-industrial complex, a five-story residential building, and a production facility caught fire.
On October 2, Russian troops:
- launched rocket attacks and destroyed industrial infrastructure in Zaporizhzhia;
- shelled villages of the Sumy district damaging the power line, gas pipeline, a water tower, and a transforming power station;
- shelled the Kramatorsk industrial zone.
On October 3, Russian occupiers:
- shelled the warehouses of one of the enterprises in the Kryvyi Rih district of the Dnipropetrovsk region;
- hit an object of civil industrial infrastructure in the suburbs of Mykolaiv, damaging production facilities and several buildings of the enterprise.
On October 4, Russian troops:
- launched a rocket attack on an enterprise in the Kholodnohirskyi district in Kharkiv. A fire broke out in an area of 600 square meters, and the production and warehouse building was destroyed. Another missile strike damaged critical infrastructure in the Novobavarskyi district;
- shelled Nikopol, the Dnipropetrovsk region, damaging the infrastructure for electricity and water supply;
- launched a rocket attack on an infrastructure object in the Voznesensky district of the Mykolaiv region.
On October 5, the occupiers:
- launched a rocket attack on Zaporizhzhia destroying infrastructure objects;
- attacked infrastructure objects in Bila Tserkva, the Kyiv region, with kamikaze drones, causing fires.
Large-scale fires at infrastructure and industrial facilities lead to air poisoning with hazardous substances. Pollutants can be carried by winds over long distances.
Pollution caused directly by hostilities
According to Ukraine’s State Emergency Service, from February 24 to October 5, 223,259 explosive devices, including 2,122 aircraft bombs, were neutralized in Ukraine. An area of 71,954 hectares was surveyed for explosives.
In the recently liberated town of Izyum in the Kharkiv region, the SEI inspectors calculated UAH 655 million of the environmental damage caused by soil contamination with demolition waste from 4 facilities. Russian shelling damaged and destroyed the dormitory of the medical college, the college itself, and 2 hospitals. Ammunition, plastic, wood, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, glass, paper, brick, and concrete littered 11,299 square meters in total, and the volume of the generated waste is more than 400 cubic meters.
Destruction of buildings and settlements leads to pollution by construction debris and asbestos. The consequences of such pollution to the environment will last for years.
Damage to natural reserves and protected ecosystems
According to the SEI report, from June 1 to August 29, as a result of Russian shelling, 25 fires were recorded in the territories of the Halytsynivskyi, the Balabanivka, and the Lymany forests. The total area of fires was 211.73 hectares.
Due to the fires, 149,800 tons of pollutants were released into the atmosphere, including 147,700 tons of carbon dioxide, 622 tons of carbon monoxide, and 62 tons of non-methane volatile organic compounds. The total amount of damage to the environment is UAH 600.2 million.
Currently, a temporary ban on visiting forests is in effect in almost all regions of Ukraine. Partial demining has already taken place in the territories where hostilities were conducted. But complete demining of the forest territories can take years.
Violation of this ban can cost lives: a car was blown up by a mine in the Chernihiv region. All four people who were in the car died. The tragic incident occurred on October 1 in the forest near the village of Shestovytsia.
According to the report of the State Agency for Management of the Exclusion Zone, for 36 years in the Exclusion Zone nature, the animal and plant worlds have been reborn. Over 300 species of vertebrates live freely on 226,000 hectares of the reserve, of which 75 species are listed in the Red Book of Ukraine; 14 species of fauna are included in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and 16 species – in the European Red List.
Russian occupation and mining of a large part of the territory violated the natural balance in the Exclusion Zone. Despite these negative consequences, the Chornobyl zone will continue to be a unique shelter for animals under the good care of experienced specialists of the Chornobyl radiation and ecological biosphere reserve.
According to media reports, the Russian occupiers are clearing space for unhindered looting of the natural richness of the Kherson region by kidnapping environmentalists. Earlier, the invaders abducted Leonid Yanchyshyn, an employee of the “Volyzhyn Forest” section of the Black Sea Biosphere Reserve, who for many years had been guarding the relict forest of Gilea or Herodotus Forest. Recently, the occupiers also kidnapped his colleague Oleksandr Lykov, who was guarding Kruglyi Island near the Kinburn Spit. The only large colony of arctic eiders in the Black Sea is located on this island. Several hundred birds give birth there every year, and Oleksandr Lykov made sure that no one disturbed the eider.
Damage to freshwater resources
Russian troops are deliberately striking at the infrastructure for water intake, purification, supply, and sewage treatment facilities. Due to the Russian aggression, water supply and sewerage facilities in the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv, and Mykolaiv regions have been significantly damaged. In many settlements near the front line, Ukrainians can get drinking water delivered only by tankers, as in this photo from the Donetsk region.
Mines flooded by the occupiers in the Donbas region can cause an environmental disaster, Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk regional military administration said in an interview. Even before the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation, almost all mines in the occupied territories were not functioning. But even if coal mining is no longer carried out, water must be pumped out of the mine tunnels, and the invaders did not do this.
In the coal industry, there is no such thing as a “closed mine”. Mines can only be put in the conservation mode that involves the pumping of mine waters and ventilation outlets that remove underground gas, methane, and other types of gas. The fact that the Russians do not pump out water from the mines can cause an environmental disaster: threats of landslides, the release of groundwater to the surface, and the contamination of drinking water sources.
Black and Azov Seas
Russian troops are attacking infrastructure along the Black and Azov Seas and ships at anchor, polluting water and spreading toxins into the sea.
On October 1 and October 3, Russian troops shelled the port water area and infrastructure of Ochakiv, the Mykolaiv region. On October 5, a Russian drone was shot down over the sea near Ochakiv during an aerial reconnaissance attempt.
The Tuzly Lagoons National Park in the Odesa region is the only national park in Ukraine with access to the sea and is not under occupation. All other national parks that have access to the Black or Azov seas are currently under occupation. Before the full-scale invasion, the park protected 13 lagoons and 44 kilometers of the Black Sea coast. Currently, most of the park’s territory is restricted to environmentalists.
The wetlands of the Lower Dniester National Nature Park are a nesting, feeding, and resting area for several hundred species of birds. Unfortunately, most of the birds’ migratory corridors (and three main routes pass through Ukraine: Azov-Black Sea, Polissia, and Dnipro) are located directly above the war zone. During seasonal migrations, birds can come under fire or cannot find suitable conditions to rest. Changes in migration routes can lead to exhaustion and death. More details about the consequences of the war for nature conservation areas on the sea coast of Ukraine are available in the article.
Previous reports of the Ministry of the Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine on environmental crimes committed by Russian troops since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine are available following the links:
- September: 1-7 September, 8-14 September, 15-21 September, 22-28 September
- August: 25-31 August,18-24 August, 11-17 August,4-10 August
- July: July28 – August 3, 21-27 July, 14-20 July; 7-13 July; 30 June – 6 July
- June: 23-29 June; 16-22 June; 9-15 June; 2-8 June
- May: 26 May – 1 June; 19-25 May; 11-18 May; 4-10 May; 28 April – 3 May
- April: 23-27 April; 19-22 April; 15-18 April; 8-14 April; 1-7 April
- February- March: 24-31 March; 9-14 March; 24 February – 9 March