Briefing on the environmental damage caused by the russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine (April 20 – May 3, 2024)

On 21 April, Minister Ruslan Strilets discussed Russia's horrific crimes against the Ukrainian environment, soil pollution and the consequences of the climate crisis for Ukraine in a long interview for the We Are Ukraine TV channel.

"Our environment is, unfortunately, a silent victim of this full-scale invasion, this war, every day ecosystems suffer from rashist attacks, every day a huge number of ecosystems of wildlife, fauna, flora are destroyed. Every day we have huge volumes of pollutant emissions into the air, and this is not about greenhouse gases, this is about pollution that the entire civilised world is fighting against!" Ruslan Strilets said.

During the conversation, they also discussed:

●       How to estimate the cost of environmental damage;

●       How to restore the environment;

●       What consequences Ukraine will experience as a result of climate change;

●       How the implementation of the Environmental Treaty is going for Ukraine.

Regarding Russian attacks on the energy sector, the Minister said: "Concerning such attacks on the energy sector, which are being carried out by the rashists today, it is not only the impact on infrastructure, it is not only the impact on people's lives, we must understand that again, this is combustion, emissions, waste of destruction, numerous things that affect the state of our environment today."

On 22 April, the whole world celebrates Earth Day. However, Russia continues to destroy our environment. Ukrainian forests, rivers and soils have fallen victim to this war. Millions of hectares of unique natural areas continue to suffer catastrophic losses.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine has preparedinfographics with key numbers about the damage to Ukrainian nature:

On 27 April, Ruslan Strilets met with Romina Pourmokhtari, Minister of Environment and Climate Policy of Sweden, during her visit to Kyiv.

"Sweden is one of the countries that support Ukraine the most. Since the beginning of Russia's large-scale invasion, Sweden has provided more than €2.4 billion in aid to Ukraine, which goes far beyond the environmental sector," said Ruslan Strilets.

During the meeting, Ruslan Strilets and Romina Pourmokhtari focused on the implementation of point 8 of Volodymyr Zelenskyy's Peace Formula, Sweden's accession to the Environmental Declaration, preparation of a ministerial event on the progress and further implementation of the Peace Formula, and Sweden's continued support for the environment.

On 1 May, the sixth Academy of Experts on Climate, Peace and Security was held at UNDP headquarters in New York. Participants included representatives of countries that have suffered or are suffering from military aggression, including Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Congo, Mauritania, the Arab League, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Argentina, Tunisia, Brazil, Côte d'Ivoire, Bangladesh, and the African Union.  

Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine Victoria Kireeva told the participants about the environmental damage caused by Russian aggression.

Other issues discussed at the event included the energy transition and renewable energy sources, adaptation, and transboundary impacts, including issues related to international waters, migration, and losses and damages.

Separately, the initiatives and emphasis of the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP 29), held this year in Baku, Azerbaijan, were discussed. They talked about uniting the countries suffering from military aggression and increasing funding and international support for regional recovery. After all, climate finance cannot be blind to conflicts and instability.

Also on 1 May, Ruslan Strilets, Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine, met with Ukrainian MPs Yulia Ovchynnykova, Olena Moshenets, Valeriy Zub, Oleh Seminsky, Serhiy Shtepa, Victoria Wagner, Dmytro Nalyotov and others and agreed to join forces and develop a common algorithm of actions to advocate for the Ukrainian Peace Formula.

"It is important to support the parliamentary integration of the Environmental Compact for Ukraine. It was developed by the Ukraine War Environmental Consequences Work Group, co-chaired by Andriy Yermak, Head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine, and Margot Wallström, former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden. This cross-sectoral document deals with environmental protection, public health, green recovery, energy saving and restoring justice. It covers all the points of the Peace Formula – a complete track that cannot be divided into individual parts. They are all closely interrelated. Point 8 on environmental safety is impossible without interaction with other points, because environmental protection affects all spheres of life," says Ruslan Strilets.

Nuclear and radiation safety threats

Russians are training FPV drone operators on the territory of Zaporizhzhya NPP.

According to Andrii Cherniak, a representative of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, the occupiers have equipped launch pads for their UAVs right next to ZNPP reactor No. 6. And since the summer of 2023, they have been using the territory of the occupied plant to train FPV drone pilots. In return, the Ukrainian Defence Forces cannot return fire in the one-and-a-half kilometre zone around the plant.

The flight path of the Russian drones shows them flying over the ZNPP power units in the direction of the Nikopol and Marhanets communities.

Recent attacks on infrastructure and industry sites

On 20 April, a ballistic missile hit caused significant damage to the territory of an enterprise in the suburbs of Kherson.

It was established that the total area of land contamination with destruction waste was more than 0.15 hectares, with a crater volume of more than 26 m3.

On 22 April, Russian drones hit a farm in the Odesa region, damaging a warehouse and equipment.

On 27 April, the enemy launched a massive missile attack on Ukraine. In the Prykarpattya region, a critical infrastructure facility was targeted during a nighttime missile attack. The attack resulted in a fire extinguished by the relevant emergency services. In the Lviv region, the enemy attacked two critical energy infrastructure facilities in Stryi and Chervonohrad districts. Fires broke out at these facilities. Rescue units quickly extinguished the fires. There was damage.

On 27 April, a ballistic missile hit the territory of an education school in Kherson, causing significant damage.

The area of the crater was determined to be more than 9 metres wide, 10 metres long and 4.5 metres deep.

On 29 April, the Russian army attacked Odesa with a ballistic missile with a cluster munition. As a result of the attack, the palace of students of the Odessa Law Academy caught fire.

On 1 May, Russians attacked the Nova Poshta depot in Odesa. The company reported that there were 904 shipments worth almost UAH 3 million.

Pollution caused directly by hostilities

According to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine (SESU), from February 24, 2022, to May 3, 2024, a total of 491,015 explosive objects have been neutralized on the territory of Ukraine. An area of 1292 square kilometres has been surveyed.

Almost 90% of forest fires since the beginning of this year have been caused by Russian armed aggression.

The de-occupied territories close to the frontline are affected by forest fires. Right now, 1,000 hectares of forest in the Kharkiv region are on fire. As a result of constant enemy attacks, the fire has spread to the territories of Chervonooskil and Studenetsky forestries of the Izium forestry. Access to the area is restricted due to mines. Ammunition is being detonated at the fire sites. The situation is being handled by the emergency response headquarters under the supervision of the State Emergency Service of Izyum district.

Experts from the Specialised Environmental Prosecutor's Office of Kyiv Region are establishing the scale of environmental damage. The issue is the consequences of the attack by Russian troops on the Trypillia thermal power plant.

To determine the scale of the environmental impact, prosecutors, with the participation of experts from the State Environmental Inspectorate of the Capital District and the Kyiv Regional Centre for Disease Control and Prevention of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, conducted an additional inspection of the damaged area.

"Soil samples were taken for laboratory tests. After receiving their results, the amount of damage caused by soil contamination will be determined and an engineering and environmental assessment will be ordered. The environmental damage caused by air pollution due to the fire at the TPP will also be calculated," the statement said.

Damage to natural reserves and protected ecosystems

The ecologists continue to investigate the territory of the Kamianska Sich National Nature Park, which is located in the Beryslav district of the Kherson region. In particular, they analyse the impact of explosives on its territory.

This was reported by Kateryna Polyanska, an ecologist at the “Environment – People –Law” ICO, at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

The scientist noted that they investigated the craters formed as a result of the impact of S-300 missiles, Grad multiple rocket launchers and artillery on the territory of the park.

"Laboratory tests showed an excess of zinc. If the maximum permissible concentration is 23 milligrams, then in one of the sinkholes we observe 1,119 milligrams. There is also an excess of copper, lead and nickel," she adds.

Polyanska also noted that burnt equipment is one of the most dangerous types of pollution.

Also, representatives of the Kamianska Sich National Park have filed a lawsuit against the Russian Federation.

Ivan Moisienko, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Professor, Member of the Board of the Ukrainian Nature Conservation Group, Honoured Worker of Science and Technology of Ukraine, toldVgoru Media Platform.

He noted that a court hearing was held in Kyiv. The Environment – People – Law International charity organisation is helping with the park.

Moisienko added that even though the territory of Kamianska Sich was mined, despite the attacks, the staff managed to collect evidence of violations against nature. In particular, they recorded that the Russian military destroyed about one thousand trees.

In addition, according to him, scientists in the National Park have recorded numerous fires, Russian fortifications, fuel and lubricant pollution, and damage to vegetation and soil cover due to the passage of heavy machinery.

The Ukraine War Environmental Consequences Work Group, in its report "Protected Areas of Ukraine: Protected or Degraded?" of 29 April 2024, notes that since 24 February 2022, approximately 812 nature protection areas with a total area of almost one million hectares have been in the zone of active hostilities or under occupation.

Some protected areas have been liberated, but face enormous consequences of the war. For example, about 24,000 hectares of forest have been destroyed in the Chornobyl reserve alone. In the Donetsk region, 80% of the Holy Mountains National Park was destroyed. Shelling and fires have caused significant damage to many protected areas, including the Ivory Coast of Sviatoslav National Park, which was completely flooded after the terrorist attack on the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station.

Currently, protected areas account for only 6.7% of the country's total area, instead of the 15% required by 2030.

Black and Azov Seas

The military operations are destroying the protected area and poisoning the environment, affecting the Black Sea ecosystem and its inhabitants. It is now known for certain that some mammal species are on the verge of extinction due to sea pollution and the constant noise of explosions and echolocation. The state of the Black Sea and the impact of the war is one of the key research topics for European scientists.

According to Vladyslav Balinsky, a biological chemist from Odesa and head of the Green Sheet NGO, unfortunately, scientists do not have access to a full-fledged study of seawater because of military operations. When studying the Gulf of Odesa, researchers saw that due to the dam being blown up, large volumes of toxic and hazardous substances for human and marine life got into the sea along with fresh water, which will be a reminder of their presence for decades to come.

Over 70 years of operation, the reservoir has accumulated a lot of waste from the agro-industrial sector. Pollutants from the mining, chemical and metallurgical industries, as well as agrochemicals, livestock and sewage waste, have been entering the reservoir for decades and forming a toxic sediment at the bottom.

Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of sediment. Foremost, these are toxic sludge (sapropel) that have accumulated over decades at the bottom of the Kakhovka reservoir - all of which were washed into the sea during the terrorist attack.

In addition, ecologists analysed molluscs on the Odesa coast. The study of mussels showed that in some cases the concentration of toxic substances is hundreds and thousands of times higher than permissible. Scientists say that about 50% of mussels that were older than 3 years died immediately after the dam was blown up.

We fixed it, and we passed the information to the prosecutor's office. And they involved the Ukrainian National Centre for Marine Ecology, headed by Viktor Komorin, and the Institute of Marine Biology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, headed by Galina Minicheva, in this case," Balinsky said.