Briefing on the environmental damage caused by the Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine (26 May - 1 June 2022)

3 June 2022, 09:16
News

A sad anniversary is approaching - 100 days since Russia started a full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine. During this time, Ukrainian cities and villages suffered terrible destruction, some of them have been occupied. The truth about the inhuman atrocities of Russian troops against civilians was revealed to the world.

Since the beginning of the large-scale Russian invasion, the Special Taskforce of the State Ecological Inspectorate of Ukraine recorded 257 crimes against the environment.

The destruction of the Ukrainian environment is a problem not only for Ukraine but for the whole world because all ecosystems are interconnected. This was stated by the Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine Ruslan Strilets in his speech at the conference "All change? What happens to EU Environmental Policy in times of crisis” while opening the EU Green Week 2022 in Brussels.

According to the Minister, now the countries of the world must unite and help Ukraine to get compensation from the aggressor country for the environmental damage.

"Russia has to pay a high price for what it has done. Everyone must understand how expensive war is not only for the country under attack but also for the aggressor. Ignoring this now means making similar scenarios possible in the future," said Ruslan Strilets.

Nuclear and radiation safety threats

In the Exclusion Zone, local forest fires are being extinguished. In Dytyatkivsky forestry the firefighters are working on an area of ​​65 hectares, in Opachytsky forestry – on an area of ​​85 hectares. In Kotovsky forestry, about 200 hectares were affected by fires. Due to mines, the firefighters do not have access to firefighting works, but there is no threat of fire spreading. Fighting 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. The radiation levels do not exceed the norm.

The Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant (Zaporizhzhya NPP)continues to work under the control of Russian soldiers. 500 Russian troops are deployed at the Zaporizhzhya NPP. A lot of explosives are stored at the plant. The personnel works under great pressure from the invaders. Cases of abuse and kidnapping of the staff have been recorded. The nuclear safety at the plant is still under threat.

On May 27, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU) issued a public call to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The SNRIU calls on the IAEA to assist Ukraine in demands for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops, military equipment, and Rosatom personnel from the Zaporizhzhya NPP site and the city of Energodar, which would be the best guarantee for the safe operation of Zaporizhzhya NPP, as well as to demand to stop shelling the territory of Ukraine with cruise and operational-tactical missiles since such shelling could potentially lead to a planetary catastrophe, greater in its consequences than Chornobyl and Fukushima accidents altogether.

Recent attacks on infrastructure and industry sites

On May 27, the Slovyansk thermal power plant in the Donetsk region suspended its operations. The power plant is being shelled constantly by Russian troops.

On May 28, Russian troops launched a missile strike on a factory in Kryvyi Rih. The factory was destroyed. An attack caused a fire, which was extinguished by firefighters.

On May 28, two Russian rockets destroyed a solar power plant on a former landfill site in Merefa (the Kharkiv region).

On May 28, the Russian occupiers shelled the Artemsil plant in Soledar (Donetsk region). As a result of the attack, the fire destroyed one of the largest salt production companies in Europe.

On May 28, a fire broke out on the territory of a former coke plant in Donetsk. The occupiers used the plant as an ammunition depot. The fire led to the detonation of shells stored there.

On May 30, as a result of hostilities, the ammonia pipeline branch was damaged in the Bakhmut district of the Donetsk region. Approximately 250 tons of ammonia were stored in the damaged section of the pipeline. The affected area of an ammonia leak had a 4 kilometres radius. According to the Donetsk Regional Military Administration, the vast majority of settlements in the Bakhmut district are outside the affected area, so there is no threat to civilians. The situation is under control.

On May 31, nitric acid leaked as a result of the shelling of the Azot plant in Severodonetsk, the Luhansk region. Local authorities warned city residents to stay in the shelters. Nitric acid is dangerous if inhaled, swallowed and if it contacts the skin and mucous membranes. Pollution can lead to acid rains causing significant damage to the environment. On June 1, Russian troops shelled the warehouse with methanol at the Azot plant.

 

Specialists of the State Ecological Inspectorate of Polissya District calculated the damage due to air pollution caused by fires at 3 oil depots in the Zhytomyr and Rivne regions. The oil depots were damaged as a result of Russian missile strikes. The damage is estimated at UAH 225 million.

SEI experts also calculated the damage caused by the Russian attack on the oil and gas complex in the Sumy region. It took two days to eliminate the fires caused by the attack leading to continuous and intense air pollution by combustion products. The total amount of damage exceeded UAH 140 million.

As a result of fires at oil depots, oxides of nitrogen, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, benzopyrene, carbon oxides, metals, and their compounds are released into the air. These pollutants significantly affect air quality and pose a threat to human health. 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 31 May 2022, 125 560 explosive devices, including 1 983 aircraft bombs, were neutralized in Ukraine. An area of ​​26 579 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, during the Russian occupation, a quarter of residential buildings were destroyed, and industrial and social infrastructure was damaged in the village of Ozera (Borodyanka district, Kyiv region). The estimated total losses are UAH 370 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.

Damage to natural reserves and protected ecosystems

As a result of fires caused by Russian attacks, more than 17,000 hectares of forests in protected areas of the Luhansk region were damaged. According to the State Ecological Inspectorate, the total amount of damages exceeds UAH 38 billion.

As of May 30, the forest fires in the temporarily occupied Kherson region have been localized. More than 4,500 hectares of forests burned out.  The timely elimination of forest fires is complicated by hostilities and mines.

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.

A full-scale war and destroyed water treatment infrastructure combined with rising air temperatures increases the risk of spreading infectious diseases such as cholera. The Public Health Center of Ukraine issued a statement warning about this threat.

Due to the emergency opening of two locks, large volumes of water were discharged at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant occupied by Russians. As a result, the embankment and the local park in Nova Kakhovka were partially flooded. Due to the occupation, the proper maintenance of the hydroelectric power plant is under threat. Kakhovka Reservoir is the largest in Ukraine (18.3 cubic kilometres of water). If the dam of the Kakhovka Reservoir is damaged, there is a threat of flooding of Kherson and the Dnipro floodplains, a unique protected area.

 

Black and Azov Seas

Russian troops are attacking infrastructure along the Black and Azov Seas and ships at anchor, polluting water and spreading toxins into the sea. On May 30, the Russian launched a missile strike at a bridge across the Dniester estuary in Zatoka, the Odesa region.

On June 1, the Russians attacked Ochakiv with Grad multiple rocket launchers. As a result of the shelling, the port tugboat and a foreign civilian cargo ship were significantly damaged. The fire was extinguished. The attack was carried out from the territory of the Kinburn Spit, a unique protected area.

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. On May 31, a storm blew away 2 Russian naval mines. One of them was cast ashore in the Odesa region. The mine was neutralised by specialists of the Ukrainian Navy.

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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