Briefing on the environmental damage caused by the Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine (4-10 May 2022)

12 May 2022, 21:37
News

Since the beginning of the large-scale Russian invasion, the Special Taskforce of the State Ecological Inspectorate of Ukraine recorded 231 crimes against the environment.

The Government of Ukraine continues recording the occupiers' crimes against the environment and will use every opportunity to bring the aggressor country to justice. The best available international practices are utilized along with the involvement of the leading experts from Ukraine and abroad.

On May 3, 2022, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted the Law "On Ukraine's accession to the Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents". This is an important step to strengthen international cooperation in the field of environmental protection. 

“While the occupiers are shelling industrial facilities and provoking large-scale accidents on our territory, it is important for Ukraine to use all available international legal instruments to protect our citizens and the environment from the consequences brought by the "Russian world". This is important for other countries as well, as such accidents carry risks of transboundary impact. Ukraine’s accession to the Convention is an example of joining efforts with European countries, the United States, Canada, and enlisting international support and assistance in resolving these issues," - commented Ruslan Strilets, Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine.

On May 10, the Cabinet of Ministers approved new special fees to calculate the damage to Ukraine’s nature protected areas. The new fees will allow calculating the actual damage caused by the Russian aggression.

Nuclear and radiation safety threats

The remediation of the consequences of the occupation by Russian troops, which lasted 35 days, is still underway at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant and in the Exclusion Zone. According to satellite images from NASA and the European Space Agency, the activities of Russian troops during the occupation of the Exclusion Zone near the Chornobyl NPP led to fires in natural habitats and abandoned villages on an area of ​​13,989 hectares. For comparison, during the whole of 2021 only 30 fires on an area of ​​38 hectares were registered in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone. During forest fires in the Exclusion Zone aerosols are released into the air. These aerosols are harmful and may contain radiation-contaminated particles. 

The Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant continues to operate under occupation. The station is controlled by the Russian military. The staff rotation takes place at the Zaporizhzhya NPP, but nuclear and radiation safety continues to be under threat, as the station's employees can’t calmly perform all their duties and have a good rest because of the occupation.

Recent attacks on infrastructure and industrial sites

On May 4, Russian troops launched missile strikes on infrastructure facilities in Dnipro city and the Kirovohrad region causing fires. 

On May 5, the Russian military shelled the railway depot of the Azot factory in Severodonetsk, Luhansk region. Azot is the third-largest producer of ammonia in Ukraine and one of the largest chemical factories in Europe. Due to the fire on an area of ​​400 square meters, there was a threat of damaging the tanks with hazardous substances at the factory.

On May 7, four Russian missiles destroyed a furniture factory in Odessa. Paints and varnishes used at the factory caught fire releasing a large amount of pollutants.

On May 8, Russians shelled an oil refinery in Lysychansk, Luhansk region. As a result of the shelling, the plant's production facilities (a sulfur production plant and a mixing plant) caught fire. On May 9, Russians shelled the Lysychansk refinery once again, causing a fire on an area of 360 sq. m.

On May 9, the Russians launched a new missile strike on Odessa, destroying a shopping mall (the area of ​​the fire was 1,000 square meters) and 3 warehouses (the total area of ​​the fire was over 1,200 square meters).

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 10 May 2022, 101,474 explosive devices, 1,966 aircraft bombs, and 593.4 kg of explosives were neutralized in Ukraine. An area of ​​18,764 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.

According to the RebuildUA project report, more than 2,000 buildings were destroyed in the village of Moshchun (Bucha district,  Kyiv region). In March 2022, the village became one of the strongholds of Kyiv's defense. Destruction of cities 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

The timely elimination of forest fires is complicated by hostilities and mines. In particular, forest fires continue spreading near the villages of Ivanivka and Geroyske in the temporarily occupied Kherson region. According to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), from May 7, 2022, forest fires have been recorded on an area of 15 hectares near the town of Kreminna, Luhansk region.

The Russian military does not allow forest guards to access the affected territories and eliminate fires. The wildfires destroy the entire ecosystems of the Ukrainian forests. It will take decades to restore them.

On May 5, a team of staff and volunteers were shelled during the evacuation of buffaloes from the Feldman Ecopark in the Kharkiv region. One of the volunteers was killed and two others were seriously injured. The Ecopark is located almost on the frontline and is constantly being put under fire. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, ecopark workers, volunteers, and animal rights activists have saved about 80% of the animals, risking their lives.

Damage to freshwater resources

 

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 May 4 the Russian troops shelled the MTM RIO Grande tanker from Singapore in the Nika-Tera port (Mykolaiv). According to the International Chamber of Shipping (ISS), 109 vessels are stranded in Ukrainian ports in the Black and Azov Seas due to Russian aggression.

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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