Briefing on the environmental damage caused by the Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine (May 4 – May 17, 2024)

On May 9, the delegation of Ukraine at the Water Convention meeting in Geneva focused the international community's attention on the ecocide of the Russian Federation.

At the request of the Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine Ruslan Strilets, the Ukrainian delegation at the Water Convention meeting in Geneva emphasized the catastrophic impact of Russian armed attacks on hydroelectric power plants and water supply systems in Ukraine.

In particular, Ukraine focused world attention on:

  • The Russians' undermining of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam on June 6, 2023;
  • the pollution of Ukraine's water resources with heavy metals, oil products and other toxic compounds as a result of missile attacks and other military actions by the Russian Federation;
  • the systematic destruction and damage to Ukraine's water supply systems and infrastructure due to Russia's attacks, which leads to a humanitarian crisis and devastating environmental consequences.

Ukraine reiterated its demand that Russia withdraw its troops from the entire territory of Ukraine and called on the parties to join the implementation of paragraph 8 of President Zelenskyy's Peace Formula "Environmental Security".

On May 15, the First Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Oleksandr Kornienko made a welcoming speech at the International Forum "Ecology and Peace".

He noted that Ukraine wants peace most of all and proposed a real instrument for achieving it, including ten paragraphs, in particular, on energy and nuclear safety — the Peace Formula of President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

At the same time, he said, the Russian Federation remains an anti-environmental dictatorship. In particular, Russia demonstrates this through threats to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the destruction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant dam and shelling of other hydroelectric power plants, mining of territories, and finally, the occupation of Crimea, which started the war: "in ten years, the Russian Federation has turned the most picturesque peninsula, an ecological natural pearl of the Black Sea, into a militarized base."

"At all international platforms, we have to focus attention on this aspect as well — to act, to stop the madness, to continue to achieve our goals," emphasized Oleksandr Kornienko, noting that preserving peace and establishing peace for future generations is necessary.

On May 17, Minister Ruslan Strilets met with members of the Ukrainian Parliament Yulia Ovchynnykova, Olena Moshenets, Victoria Wagner, Valeriy Zub, Serhiy Shtepa and Dmytro Nalyotov at the Climate Office.They discussed the results of developments in the key areas of the international environmental track in advocating for paragraph 8 of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's Peace Formula."Emissions from the military operations on the territory of Ukraine already amount to 180 million tons of CO2," Ruslan Strilets noted.In addition, in the field of implementing the provisions of the Environmental Compact for Ukraine, the development of an Action Plan for its implementation is underway. Reminder, the document was developed by the International Working Group on the Environmental Consequences of War, co-chaired by the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak and former Deputy Prime Minister, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden Margot Wallström.The Environmental Compact is a set of 50 unified recommendations for Ukraine and the world that define approaches to compensation for environmental damage caused by military operations and proposals for "green" recovery. There are 30 steps to be taken by Ukraine, and 20 with the support of our partners."I am grateful to the members of parliament for synchronizing our efforts. This is very important because Ukraine's mission today is not only to bring the aggressor to justice. Overcoming the consequences of the Russian war should become a model for global practice, which will clearly demonstrate the price of war," noted Ruslan Strilets.

Nuclear and radiation safety threats

The Minister of Energy of Ukraine Herman Halushchenko said that if the Russians launch ZNPP, they will violate international law.

Because only Ukrainian specialists are licensed to operate the plant, and the occupiers do not allow them to stay at ZNPP.

Also, there is not enough water to operate the reactors at the plant.

"The problem with the water supply to the plant arose after the Russians destroyed the Kakhovka dam. And while there is enough water in the coolers to keep six units offline, ZNPP needs completely different volumes of water to start up," the minister said.

Recent attacks on infrastructure and industrial sites

On May 4, Russian occupation forces attacked Nikopol once again.

A fire broke out in the civilian sector: an agricultural building, a garage, and a car burned down over a total area of 100 m².

On May 5, the Russians launched a drone attack on the civilian sector of Kharkiv.

The explosion damaged private houses and other outbuildings. Fires broke out at two addresses. Outbuildings, a garage and a car were on fire.

On May 5, Russia attacked the Sloviansk Thermal Power Plant.According to the Deputy Head of the Mykolaiv City Military Administration, Volodymyr Proskunin, the Russians attacked the TPP with four cluster missiles from the Smerch multiple rocket launcher system and one high-explosive missile. Several objects on the plant's territory were damaged.On the morning of May 8, during the massive shelling of Ukraine, Russians damaged critical infrastructure objects in Poltava, Zaporizhzhia, Ivano-Frankivsk and Vinnytsia regions.The State Ecological Inspectorate visited the objects to record the environmental damage caused by the enemy's armed attack.The estimated amount of damage has been calculated:

  • in Poltava region — UAH 1.5 million;
  • in Vinnytsia region — UAH 176.7 million;
  • in Ivano-Frankivsk region — UAH 70.4 million;
  • in Zaporizhzhia region — UAH 76.4 million.

The environmental inspectors measured the areas of land that were contaminated and polluted during the enemy attack and took soil samples for further laboratory tests to determine the level of contamination and further calculate the damage.On May 14, the enemy conducted 7 air attacks on the civilian sector of Kharkiv in the middle of the day.The Russian armed forces hit the city with UMPB D30-SN-guided aerial bombs. A total of three hits were recorded. One of the shells hit a civilian building, and the other two hit the yards of a civilian building.

Pollution caused directly by hostilities

According to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine (SESU), from February 24, 2022, to May 17, 2024, a total of 494,875 explosive objects have been neutralized on the territory of Ukraine. An area of 1326 square kilometres has been surveyed.

According to the Ministry of Economy of Ukraine, governmental and non-governmental mine action operators have surveyed more than 115,000 hectares of agricultural land since the beginning of the year, of which 108,000 hectares have been returned to economical use.

Pyrotechnic units surveyed almost 35 thousand hectares of agricultural land in April alone. The pace of inspection exceeds last year's. While in 2023, on average, pyrotechnics inspected 22.8 thousand hectares of farmland per month, in the first four months of 2024, they reached an average of 28.75 thousand hectares per month.

For more than two years of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the environment of Zaporizhzhia region has suffered multimillion-dollar losses. In particular, from the beginning of the full-scale invasion to the present day, the amount of damage caused by air pollution is almost UAH 165 million.

So far, experts have calculated more than 160 facts of unorganized emissions of pollutants or a mixture of such substances into the air as a result of emergencies or during martial law.

Also, experts of the State Environmental Inspectorate of the South District calculate the damage caused to the environment during martial law, following the Methodologies approved by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine.

As a result, as of May 2024, the amount of damage for soil contamination and land contamination by construction waste and fragments of missile and shell warheads in the Kherson region exceeds UAH 7 billion 154 million 666 thousand.

As of today, damages have been calculated for nearly 1,000 damage cases and have increased by more than UAH 595 million compared to last month.

Damage to natural reserves and protected ecosystems

On May 7, as a result of Russia's armed aggression, a fire broke out in the Lyman Forest near Kramatorsk, Donetsk region.

The fire destroyed 470 hectares of forest, which is part of the Holy Mountains National Nature Park. Firefighting operations lasted more than 10 hours.

The State Ecological Inspectorate has calculated the estimated amount of damage to air pollution at over UAH 2.6 billion. Due to the mining of the area, environmental inspectors could not inspect the territory, and the calculation of damages was based on geospatial data and firefighters' reports.

"The State Ecological Inspectorate in Luhansk Oblast has calculated the damage caused to the air as a result of forest fires near the village of Smolyanynove. It amounts to more than 17 billion hryvnias," the Luhansk Regional Military Administration said in a statement.

The regional state administration added that due to the armed aggression of the Russian Federation, a forest fire broke out near the village of Smolyanynove, Severodonetsk district. The fire covered more than two thousand hectares, which released pollutants into the air.

According to the head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration, Artem Lysohor, the forest near the village of Smolyanynove had been on fire for several days. The Russian occupiers knew about it but did not try to put it out.

Water resources damage

On May 14, the industry conference "Recovery of Water Resources as a Concept of Ukraine's Sustainability" was held to discuss the availability of water resources, especially in the south and east of Ukraine, in the context of a full-scale war.

The conference was attended by the Deputy Head of the State Agency of Ukraine for Water Resources Ihor Hopchak. As noted on the State Agency's Facebook page:

"Water management in Ukraine is making every effort to overcome the challenges caused by both the state of water resources and their use, as well as the growing impact of Russian military operations on the territory of Ukraine.

The State Agency of Ukraine for Water Resources has developed strategic state planning documents for all river basins — draft River Basin Management Plans that will help solve the main water problems and achieve "good" water status.

The water management organizations of the State Agency of Ukraine for Water Resources are the balance holders of the relevant infrastructure and ensure its operation to protect settlements and agricultural land from the destructive effects of floods and floods.

In addition to its deterioration, the water infrastructure was damaged as a result of the military actions of the Russian Federation.

To comprehensively address water supply problems, the Agency is developing the State Target Program for Comprehensive Water Supply of the Territories Affected by Military Operations for the Period up to 2030."

Black and Azov Seas

In the temporarily occupied Mariupol, Donetsk region, Russians are destroying the city's ecosystem. This was reported by the press service of Mariupol Municipal Administration.

"Citizens on Kuindzhi Street are alarmed. For a month now, sewage has been leaking to the surface, mixing with groundwater and then flowing into the sea near the city beach," the statement reads.

Although residents have filed applications with the local water utility, the utility has not taken any action.