Briefing on the environmental damage caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine (23-27 April 2022)

29 April 2022, 15:32

Numerous environmental crimes of Russian troops in Ukraine pose threat to human health even beyond the country borders, as pollution spreads with winds and rivers over long distances.

April 26 marked the 36th anniversary of the Chornobyl accident - the largest man-made disaster in human history.

"The aggressor state has not learned the lesson of the past and is organizing deliberate nuclear terror at Ukraine's nuclear power facilities, intimidating the entire civilized world. The international community must recognize that this is a challenge for all of us," - said Ruslan Strilets, Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine, during a briefing on April 26

An expert mission from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), led by Director General Rafael Grossi, arrived at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant on April 26 to deliver necessary equipment and to conduct radiological and other assessments at the plant.

Iryna Stavchuk, Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine, took part in a meeting with the IAEA delegation. Following the meeting, it was agreed:

- to establish a working group at the IAEA level and all involved authorities in Ukraine to assess the consequences and losses due to the Russian occupation of the Chornobyl zone and all facilities and enterprises of the zone;

- to organize the provision of financial resources for urgent tasks and needs by the IAEA and to additionally involve donor countries; 

- to launch the IAEA permanent mission to work in Ukraine on nuclear safety in the nearest future.

Nuclear and radiation safety threats

Ukraine has recorded yet another act of nuclear terrorism by Russia. The Russian armed forces are again thoughtlessly shelling the territory of Ukraine, launching cruise and other strategic and tactical missiles in the most critical proximity to nuclear facilities.

On April 25, two cruise missiles fired by the Russian military probably in the direction of the cities of Rivne and Zdolbuniv were recorded over the Khmelnytsky NPP cooling reservoir. 

On April 26, two Russian cruise missiles flew at low altitude over the Zaporizhzhya NPP site in the direction of Zaporizhzhya. 

The flight of low-altitude missiles directly above the sites of Ukrainian nuclear power plants, where nuclear facilities with a significant amount of nuclear material are located, poses enormous risks. Missiles can hit one or more nuclear facilities, threatening a nuclear and radiation catastrophe with global impacts.

Ruslan Strilets, Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine, commented on radiation safety threats caused by the Russian aggression against Ukraine for The Washington Post article available following the link >>


Recent attacks on infrastructure and industrial sites

On April 24, 2022, the Russian armed forces carried out another shelling of the city of Avdiivka, Donetsk region, using a multiple rocket launcher. Avdiivka Coke Plant, one of the largest both in Ukraine and Europe, got under attack.  The third battery of the first coke unit, CHP, and coke gas capture unit were damaged. Such shelling can result in leak into the atmosphere of coke oven gas high in benzene, toluene, naphthalene, hydrogen sulfide, mercaptan, hydrocyanic acid, and ammonia. 

On April 24, 9 Russian missiles struck the Kremenchuk CHP and the Kremenchuk oil refinery in the Poltava region. On April 24, Russian troops fired for the third time at an oil refinery in Lysychansk, Luhansk Oblast. Large-scale fires broke out as a result of the shelling.

 On April 25, a rocket attack caused an explosion and fire at the traction substation of the Krasne railway station in the Zolochiv district of the Lviv region.

On April 25, as a result of artillery shelling of the town of Lyman, Kramatorsk district, Donetsk region, the gas pipeline was depressurized and a big fire broke out. 

During the night of April 26, 35 airstrikes were carried out on the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, during which one of the plant units caught fire.

On the night of April 27, the Russians shelled the energy infrastructure of the Zelenodolsk community in the Dnipropetrovsk region. There was a leak of oil and a big fire broke out.

Large-scale fires on infrastructure and industrial facilities lead to poisoning of the air 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 24 February to 27 April 2022, 79,169 explosive devices, 1,955 aircraft bombs, and 567.4 kg of explosives were neutralized in Ukraine. An area of ​​13,473 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, including heavy metals.

On April 26 and 27, Russian troops twice fired phosphorous shells at Avdiivka in the Donetsk region. As a result of these shellings, several fires broke out in the city. If phosphorus in any form enters the human body, it causes death in agony. For humans, the lethal dose is only 0.05-0.15 g. Phosphorus combustion products and their solutions form salts in soils. Excess phosphates are very harmful to flora and fauna. The use of white phosphorus shells is prohibited by the 1977 Geneva Conventions on the Protection of Victims of War.

Iryna Stavchuk, Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine for European Integration, commented to The Wall Street Journal on the long-term damage caused to the Ukrainian environment by the ongoing hostilities: read the article >> 

Damage to natural reserves and protected ecosystems

Damage to freshwater resources

As a result of hostilities, the water supply system from the Dnipro river to the city of Mykolaiv was damaged. For over two weeks Mykolaiv residents haven't had access to clean water. The water for basic needs of the population is being transported from other regions of the country. 

As a result of active hostilities, the infrastructure for water intake, purification, and supply, as well as sewage treatment facilities in the Donetsk region (cities of Mariupol, Druzhkivka, Vuhledar, Toretsk, Volnovakha district, Yasynuvata territorial community) were damaged. Damage to water supply and sewerage systems and other municipal networks directly threatens the pollution of rivers. Because of the destruction caused by the war 1.4 mln people in Ukraine have no access to safe water, and 4.6 mln people have only limited access.

Black and Azov Seas

Russian troops are attacking infrastructure along the Black and Azov Seas and anchored ships, polluting water and spreading toxins into the sea. 

In particular, on April 26 and 27, the Russian occupiers fired rockets at the bridge across the Dniester estuary in Zatoka (Odesa region), which led to the destruction of the bridge.

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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