Briefing on the environmental damage caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine (19-22 April 2022)

22 April 2022, 19:51

The unjustified and unprovoked act of Russia's aggression against sovereignUkraine is a flagrant violation of all existing norms of international law, morality, and principles of human coexistence.

The Government of Ukraine continues to record the numerous occupiers' crimes against the environment posing a threat not only nationally but also regionally and globally. 

Nuclear and radiation safety threats

From 24 February to 31 March 2022, the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone was occupied by Russian troops. Currently, the State Agency of Ukraine for Exclusion Zone Management (DAZV) is in control of all Chornobyl NPP facilities

On April 19, the direct connection of the power plant with the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine was restored. The connection between the Chornobyl NPP and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), lost on March 9, has also been restored. The international regulator can now contact the station directly when needed.

According to the IAEA, a mission of IAEA experts plans to visit the Chornobyl site later this month to conduct nuclear safety, security, and radiological assessments, deliver vital equipment and repair the remote safeguards monitoring systems there.

Demining, search for explosive devices and ammunition continues at the nuclear power plant facilities and other sites in the exclusion zone. 

The Zaporizhzhya NPP, the first nuclear power plant in the world’s history to be attacked with tanks, remains temporarily occupied by Russian troops. The capture of ZNPP by the Russian military, and the presence of armed invaders and representatives of the Rosatom at a Ukrainian nuclear facility is a direct act of nuclear terrorism and a violation of all nuclear and radiation safety requirements.

As of April 21, the radiation level at the Zaporizhzhya NPP industrial site is 11 microroentgen/hour, in the sanitary protection zone - 8-12 microroentgen/hour. These indicators correspond to the natural radiation background at the location of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant.

According to the National Research Centre “Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology”, the nuclear subcritical facility “Neutron Source” has repeatedly come under Russian fire. As a result of the shelling, the external power supply system and the air conditioning system of the cooling block were damaged. 

As of April 20, the radiation level at the “Neutron Source” site remains within normal limits according to the portable dosimeter. Due to the constant shelling by Russian troops, there is a high probability of new damage to the nuclear facility posing a significant threat to radiation safety.

On April 22, Energoatom (National Nuclear Energy Generating Company of Ukraine) published evidence of a Russian cruise missile flying over the Pivdennoukrainska (South Ukraine) nuclear power station. On April 16, three cruise missiles flew over the site of the station; they were likely launched from the territory of Belarus in the direction of the city of Mykolaiv. One of the missiles was recorded by the station’s surveillance cameras.

It is another act of nuclear terrorism by Russia as the threat of hitting the nuclear reactor with possible consequences – a nuclear catastrophe – was high. Energoatom appealed to the IAEA to take all possible measures to stop Russia's nuclear terrorism

Recent attacks on infrastructure and industrial sites

On April 19, as a result of shelling by Russian troops, a coal mine caught fire in the city of Novodruzhesk (Luhansk region).

On April 19 the Russian troops struck the city of Snigurivka (Mykolaiv region) with artillery. A gas station caught fire due to the shelling. The fire caused significant air pollution.

In the city of Mariupol, the aggressor uses supermassive aerial bombs. Contacting with the soil such weapons cause significant contamination with sulphates and heavy metals (such as titanium, vanadium, strontium, cadmium). As a result of the bombing, the Azovstal, one of the largest metallurgical plants in Europe, was almost destroyed.


Pollution caused directly by hostilities

According to Ukraine’s State Emergency Service, from 24 February to 21 April 2022, 71,715 explosive devices, 1,946 aircraft bombs, and 547.4 kg of explosives were neutralized in Ukraine. An area of ​​12,714 hectares was surveyed for explosives. Destroyed military equipment and ammunition, as well as exploded missiles and air bombs, pollute the soil and groundwater with chemicals and heavy metals.

On April 19, Russian troops used phosphorous bombs during an attack on the town of Gulyaypole (Zaporizhzhia region). As a result of the attack, a strong fire broke out releasing caustic white smoke, which did not stop until the phosphorus burned out.

Damage to natural reserves and protected ecosystems

“Russian troops have already entered, or conducted military operations in, more than one-third of the nation’s protected natural areas. Their ecosystems and species have become vulnerable”, - Oleksandr Krasnolutsky, Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine, said in a comment to The New York Times. Feel free to read the NYT article on how nature in Ukraine is becoming a silent victim of war with points of view of scientists and biologists and analysis of studies of previous armed conflicts in the world at the link >>

On April 20, the Marine Guard of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine declared a mine danger at the mouth of the Danube river. This area is a part of the Danube Biosphere Reserve.

Damage to freshwater resources

The war started by Russia against Ukraine led to the destruction of water supply and electricity networks. According to the UNICEF data published on April 19, over 6 million people in Ukraine are struggling every day to have drinking water, one of the most essential human needs.

As a result of hostilities, the pipeline system supplying fresh water from the Dnipro River to Mykolaiv was damaged. As of 20 April, the repair works were underway to restore the water supply. Currently, the city's residents are supplied with water from storage tanks and artesian wells, as well as through collective treatment devices and bottled water delivery.

The State Ecological Inspectorate has published the results of a study of surface water samples in the Ikva River (Rivne region), which was contaminated upstream in Ternopil region as a result of damage to a tank with mineral fertilizers by the wreckage of an intercepted Russian missile.

According to the results of the detailed analysis, water samples at two sampling points showed significant deviations from the norms: ammonium levels exceeded the norm by 163 times near the village of Bereg; nitrites - by 7 times near the village of Sapanovchyk; nitrates - by 49.7 times near Sapanovchyk; total iron - by 7.4 times near Bereg; biological oxygen consumption - by 1.9 times near Sapanovchyk. 

Black and Azov Seas

Maritime traffic from all Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea remains blocked due to the threat of attacks by the Russian navy, and the capture or detonation of sea mines.

In the Odessa region, some mouths of the Danube river have become dangerous for fishing and shipping. The Marine Guard of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine has declared a mine danger in these territories.


Previous Reports

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:

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