Briefing on the environmental damage caused by the Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine (19-25 May 2022)

27 May 2022, 09:10

As Ukraine marks three months since the beginning of a large-scale Russian invasion, the Ukrainian government continues to record the occupiers' numerous crimes against the environment.

Russia is using nuclear, environmental, and food terror, which threatens the security of Europe and the world. This was stated by the Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine Ruslan Strilets in his keynote address, which opened the second preparatory meeting of the 30th OSCE Economic and Environmental Forum on May 23, 2022.

"We are very grateful to every country that helps us counter Russian terror every day, protect ourselves from aggression, and to everyone providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine. We call on the international community to continue helping us end the war as soon as possible and bring Russia to justice. The cynical actions of Russian troops pose a threat to the security of the entire European continent," said Ruslan Strilets.


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. The level of fire danger in the Exclusion Zone has increased significantly as the dry and windy season has started, as well as a large number of mines and flares have been left by the Russian occupiers. Numerous mines and bomb traps are regularly triggered by wild animals. As a result, animals die or get wounded, and a fire can break out in the forest. The elimination of forest fires is complicated by limited technical resources due to the consequences of the occupation. Russians looted or destroyed large quantities of equipment and fuel. The mines also pose a great threat to firefighters. Forest fires in the Exclusion Zone can release radionuclides into the atmosphere.

The Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant continues to work in the occupation under the control of the Russian military.  Nuclear safety is still under threat, as the station's employees can’t calmly perform all their duties and have a good rest because of the occupation. On May 23, the Russian occupiers broke into the apartment of Sergiy Shvets, an employee of the Zaporizhzhya NPP's power repair unit, and shot him with automatic weapons. Sergiy Shvets was hospitalized with numerous bullet wounds. Currently, doctors are fighting for his life.


Recent attacks on infrastructure and industry sites

On May 20, Russian troops launched a missile strike on a fertilizer plant in the Odesa region. Because of the attack, a fire broke out, and the air smelled of ammonia.

On May 20, the Russian missile hit an infrastructure object in Mykolaiv. As a result of the attack, the ammonia smell spread in the city. The city authorities stated that there was no danger to the health of the residents, as the concentration of the pollutant in the air was minimal. On the same day, Russian troops launched missile strikes on infrastructure objects in the Kharkiv, Poltava, and Zhytomyr regions.

On May 21, Russians launched a missile strike on a warehouse of construction materials in the Mykolaiv region. As a result of the attack, a large-scale fire broke out with heavy smoke. In particular, a gas station and construction materials caught fire.

On May 25, the Russian occupiers launched three missiles at the city of Kryvyi Rih in the Dnipropetrovsk region, damaging an industrial plant.

During the week, numerous shellings of the Avdiivka Coke Plant in the Donetsk region, as well as the Azot plant in Severodonetsk and the Lysychansk refinery in the Luhansk region, were recorded.


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 (SES), from 24 February to 25 May 2022, 120 789  explosive devices, including 1 978 aircraft bombs, were neutralized in Ukraine. An area of ​​23 243 hectares was surveyed for explosives. 

According to the RebuildUA project report, Pushcha-Vodytsia has become one of the most devastated areas of Kyiv as a result of the proximity to Irpen and Gostomel, where the Russian army has committed horrific crimes. The total damage due to the Russian shellings in Pushcha-Vodytsia estimates to UAH 512 million. 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. The main problem in Pushcha-Vodytsia is mined forests that surround the area: despite all the demining efforts, it is still dangerous to stay there.

Damage to natural reserves and protected ecosystems

On May 20, the Russian shelling caused a fire in the Galitsinovsky forest near Mykolaiv. On May 20, a part of the forest in the Kharkiv region caught fire due to a Russian missile falling on the territory of Chuguiv Forestry.

The localization of forest fires continues in the temporarily occupied Kherson region. The total area of forest fires in the Kherson region is over 4,000 hectares. The timely elimination of forest fires is complicated by hostilities and mines.

Animals in zoos in cities in the war zone are still under threat. Almost 4 thousand animals continue living in the Mykolaiv zoo, one of the oldest in Ukraine. Almost every night, the zoo is shelled by the Russian military. Eight missiles, including cluster bombs banned by international law, have already hit the zoo’s territory. Anyone can help the Mykolaiv zoo financially from any country in the world by purchasing a ticket online.

Damage to freshwater resources

Russian troops are deliberately striking at the infrastructure for water intake, purification, and supply, as well as sewage treatment facilities. All cities of the Lugansk region in the territory controlled by Ukraine lack water supply and treatment.  Water supply and sewerage facilities in the Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv, and Mykolaiv regions have been significantly damaged. 

The spontaneous burial of the dead, lack of drinking water and medicines, put the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol on the verge of an epidemic catastrophe. Due to the critical situation with sewerage and the rupture of sewerage networks in the city, there is a threat that sewage will leak into the sea and on the streets.

On May 22, as a result of the Russian attack in the Pavlograd district of the Dnipropetrovsk region, the missile hit the Samara River.


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, ship capture, or detonation of sea mines.

Before the war, Ukraine provided more than half of wheat supplies under the UN World Food Program. The blockade of Ukraine's seaports and targeted attacks at food supply chains in Ukraine by Russia are provoking a global food crisis. This will have far-reaching consequences, especially for developing countries. 

Apart from blocking the ports, the Russians stole grain from Ukrainian farmers in the occupied territories and exported the looted grain abroad. Satellite images appear to show Russian ships loading up with Ukrainian grain in Crimea. Most likely this grain was stolen from the occupied Kherson region and other temporarily uncontrolled territories. This was reported by CNN with reference to satellite images of Maxar Technologies.

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:

By branches