Briefing on the environmental damage caused by the Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine (September 1-7, 2022)

10 September 2022, 14:16
News

The team of Ukraine’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and subordinate agencies continues to record the damage to nature caused by Russian aggression. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, specialists of the State Environmental Inspection have conducted 232 field trips to the sites of environmental crimes taking 198 soil samples throughout the territory of Ukraine.

On September 2, the new Methodology for assessing damages caused by water pollution entered into force in Ukraine. This methodology will enable to calculate the damage to water resources caused by hostilities.

At a meeting with Tobias Thyberg, the Ambassador of Sweden to Ukraine, the Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine, Ruslan Strilets noted that "the war started by the Russian Federation on our territory is not an obstacle for the green European transition of Ukraine. Every Ukrainian believes in the victory and our Armed Forces and understands that we must rebuild and develop our country today”. Mr. Tobias Thyberg reassured Sweden’s support of Ukraine.

Nuclear and radiation safety threats

As of September 7, 2022, the Zaporizhzhia NPP operates with the risk of violating radiation and fire safety standards.

On September 5, 2022, four of the six representatives of the IAEA inspection team completed their mission to the Zaporizhzhia NPP and left the plant. Two experts will likely establish a continued presence at the ZNPP.

On September 6, the IAEA published a summary report of the situation in Ukraine regarding nuclear safety (for 28 April - 5 September). The central part of the report is devoted to the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

The IAEA highlights that since the Russians captured the power plant in March, all 7 indispensable pillars for ensuring nuclear safety have been significantly violated:

  • physical integrity of the facilities has not been maintained;
  • safety and security systems not fully functional;
  • difficult operating conditions for personnel;
  • damage to off-site power supply;
  • complications to logistical chains;
  • problems with radiation monitoring systems and emergency preparedness;
  • problems in communications with the regulator

The IAEA mission confirmed that the Russian military equipment and soldiers are deployed at the nuclear power plant. "The team observed the presence of Russian military personnel, vehicles, and equipment at various places at the ZNPP, including several military trucks on the ground floor of Unit 1 and Unit 2 turbine halls," - the report says.

“Prior to the end of the conflict and re-establishment of stable conditions, there is an urgent need for interim measures to prevent a nuclear accident arising from physical damage caused by military means. This can be achieved by immediately establishing a nuclear safety and security protection zone. The IAEA is ready to start the consultations leading to the urgent establishment of such a nuclear safety and security protection zone at the ZNPP," - the IAEA report highlights. 

The Insider media published a video demonstrating the Russian multiple launch rocket system firing from the territory of the ZNPP. The video was shot on the night of September 2-3.

On September 3, after repeated shelling by the Russian occupiers, the power line connecting the Zaporizhzhia NPP with the energy system of Ukraine was damaged, resulting in power unit No. 5 of the ZNPP being disconnected from the network.

On September 5, due to a fire caused by Russian shelling, the last power line connecting the ZNNP/ZaHPP node to the energy system of Ukraine was disconnected. As a result, reactor unit No. 6, which currently covers the plant's needs, was unloaded and disconnected from the grid.

Ukraine calls on the world community to take urgent measures to demilitarize ZNPP as soon as possible, withdraw all Russian military personnel from the territory of the plant and the city of Energodar, and give back full control over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to Ukraine for the sake of the security of the whole world.

Recent attacks on infrastructure and industry sites

On September 1, Russian troops:

  • shelled Energodar in the Zaporizhzhia region; as a result of the attack, an industrial facility of an enterprise caught fire;
  • shelled the village of Pechenygi, the Kharkiv region, with Grad MPLS, damaging the infrastructure;
  • shelled an aviation enterprise in Kharkiv resulting in damages to several premises.

On September 2, the occupiers launched rocket attacks on the Kholodnohirsky district of Kharkiv, damaging the facilities.

On September 3:

  • Russians hit a food factory in Kramatorsk and a textile industry enterprise, causing a fire. In Slovyansk, the occupiers shelled two enterprises;
  • 5 Russian missiles were shot down in the Dnipropetrovsk region; the missile debris on the ground caused 4 fires in several communities.

On September 4, Russian troops:

  • shelled a grain elevator warehouse in Voznesensk, the Mykolaiv region, causing a fire;
  • destroyed an elevator in Ochakiv, the Mykolaiv region, destroying several thousand tons of grain;
  • launched a large-scale rocket attack on Mykolaiv, destroying civilian infrastructure objects.

On September 5, Russian troops:

  • attacked an oil depot in the Karpivska community of the Kryvyi Rih district. A severe fire destroyed the fuel reserves;
  • shelled the Nikopol district of the Dnipropetrovsk region, damaging 9 infrastructure facilities;
  • damaged an industrial enterprise in Mykolaiv by rocket shelling;
  • damaged industrial and production facilities in the villages of the Izyum, Chuhuiv, Kharkiv, and Bogoduhiv districts, causing fires.

On September 6, the occupiers:

  • launched a rocket attack on an oil depot in Kryvyi Rih, which caused a large-scale fire. It took 16 hours to extinguish the fire;
  • destroyed a farm’s grain warehouse in the Bashtanska community of the Mykolaiv region;
  • damaged an industrial enterprise in the Komyshuvaska community of the Zaporizhzhia region.

On September 7, because of a missile attack, a production building burned down in the Nemyshlyanskyi district of Kharkiv. Russian troops also shelled an industrial enterprise in the Marganets community of the Dnipropetrovsk region.

Large-scale fires at infrastructure and industrial facilities lead to air poisoning with particularly dangerous substances. Winds can carry pollutants over long distances.

 

Experts of the State Environmental Inspection surveyed the territory of the Dubovyazivka village of the Konotop district of the Sumy region, which was shelled by the Russian military in late March 2022. During the attack, the occupiers damaged a container with a urea-ammonia mixture and 6 tanks storing almost 155 tons of diesel fuel. As a result of the shelling, a large-scale fire occurred, which entailed an unorganized emission of pollutants into the air. The estimated amount of damage to the environment exceeds UAH 6.8 million.

In addition, petroleum products and liquid nitrogen fertilizer leaked on a plot of land with a total area of ​​more than 350 m2. According to the research results, the concentration of ammonium nitrogen in the soil was 365 times higher compared to the background level; organic substances exceeded the standard by almost 12 times. The maximum permissible concentrations of non-polar hydrocarbons were exceeded by 17 times, and nitrates - by nearly 18.

Pollution caused directly by hostilities

According to the State Emergency Service, as a result of the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation, almost half of the territory of Ukraine was contaminated with mines and explosive objects. As of now, sappers have reduced the potentially dangerous area from 300,000 square kilometers to 185,000 square kilometers. However, the situation is complicated by the constant shelling of territories in the Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv, Odesa, Sumy, and Mykolaiv regions.

Another serious issue is the contamination of rivers and water reservoirs of Ukraine, coastal waters of the Azov and Black Seas, hydro-technical structures, and seaports with mines and explosive objects. The total area of ​​water areas of Ukraine potentially contaminated with explosive objects is about 16,000 square kilometers.

Since February 24, 2022, the pyrotechnic units have conducted 25,190 field visits. They have detected, removed, and neutralized 192,230 explosive objects, including 2,106 aerial bombs. An area of ​​69,856 hectares has been surveyed.

On September 3, Russian troops attacked the village of Bezruky, the Dergachivska community, in the Kharkiv region, with phosphorus shells. As a result, more than 16 houses were completely burned down. Weapons containing white phosphorus are prohibited under international law and cause significant damage to human health and the environment.

Damage to natural reserves and protected ecosystems

A large part of Ukrainian forests remains contaminated with mines. On September 2, foresters hit a mine in the Zhytomyr region. The tragic incident happened on the territory of the Narodnytsky Forestry. As a result of the explosion, one employee died, and one is in intensive care.

Military operations continue to cause forest fires. On September 2, the occupiers shelled the Velykomykhailivska community in the Dnipropetrovsk region. As a result of the attack, a fire broke out in the forest on an area of 4 hectares.

On September 2, a forest fire broke out in the Krasnopilska community of the Sumy region due to shelling by the occupiers. The wind was blowing in the direction of the border with Russia, so the fire spread to the Russian positions.

Ukraine ranks 9th in terms of forest area in Europe. In general, hostilities of varying intensity were conducted on 3 million hectares of forests; now the war affected 600,000 hectares. The main consequences of military aggression for forestry are fires, contamination with explosive objects, and damage to premises and equipment.

Europe will support Ukraine in restoring forests. Within the "Forests of Europe" forum, a resolution was approved providing recommendations for the forestry restoration in Ukraine. The resolution envisages financial and technical support, among other things.

On September 3, the occupiers shelled the territory of the Great Meadow National Nature Park in the Zaporizhzhia region. The attack caused fires on the islands of Mali and Velyki Kuchugury in the Kakhovske water reservoir. The park is of national importance as a home to protected birds’ nesting places and rare plant habitats.

Damage to freshwater resources

Since the beginning of the large-scale invasion, attacks or disruption to wastewater treatment infrastructure have been reported in Chernihiv, Mariupol, Mykolaiv, Rubizhne, Skadovsk, Sloviansk, and Vasylivka. In cases such as Vasylivka and Mykolaiv, wastewater discharges into the Dnipro River were visible from space. This is stated in a detailed briefing on damage to water resources of Ukraine, jointly prepared by the Conflict and Environment Observatory and Zoï Environment Network.

Despite active hostilities in the region, the Siverskyi Donets Basin Administration of Water Resources continues to monitor surface waters in the Siverskyi Donets River sub-basin in the territories where the current military situation allows. In August, out of 72 monitoring points planned for 2022, the water samples were taken at 11 points in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions. According to the results of the monitoring in August 2022, traces of petroleum products in the water were detected, which were not recorded in previous years. The increased concentration of ammonium nitrogen and the presence of oil products have been caused by the inefficient operation of water treatment facilities and military operations in the region.

The damage to the power supply of critical infrastructure objects as a result of military operations has a significant impact on the quality of surface water; the power cut leads to the disruption of the operation of treatment facilities in populated areas.

An aerated lagoon is the main structure of water treatment complexes. It is for artificial biological treatment of wastewater using activated sludge and aeration based on an activity of oxygen-consuming microorganisms. If the power supply is disrupted, the air supply to an aerated lagoon is stopped, which leads to the death of these microorganisms, and the sewage treatment process does not take place, as a result of which the polluted effluents from these treatment plants leak the rivers.

Increased concentrations of ammonium nitrogen in the Siverskyi Donets River (relative to long-term values but without exceeding normative values) prove inefficient operation of treatment facilities. Also, the negative impact of military actions is based on previous research completed in June and July. Thus, in the sub-basin of the Siverskyi Donets river, the environmental quality standards were exceeded for such dangerous substances as pesticides, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, and heavy metals. Traces of petroleum products in the water (within the regulatory limits) were also detected, which had not been recorded before.

Due to military actions, there is a problem of clogging of rivers with remnants of military equipment, pollution from fuel, explosives, etc. Still, it will be possible to assess these consequences after the end of the war.

Black and Azov Seas

Active marine hostilities and Russian warships currently stationed in the northwestern region of the Black Sea not only block Ukraine’s seaports, putting the world at risk of global famine but also create man-made disasters that seriously affect the coastal and marine ecosystems of the Black and Azov Seas. This is stated in the article published on September 4 by the Ukraine War Environmental Consequences Work Group.

On September 2, a stormy sea brought another sea mine to the coast of the Odesa region. Due to the storm, the mine exploded before the controlled detonation.

On September 3, specialists of the Special Taskforce on recording environmental crimes discovered an oil spill on an area of ​​1,434 sq. km in the Sea of ​​Azov in the section from the village of Primorsky Posad to the city of Berdyansk in the Zaporizhzhia region. The oil slick was recorded using satellite imagery on September 2, when its size reached 811 square kilometers. However, satellite data analysis for September 3 showed that the size of the oil spill had increased to 1,434 square kilometers. The spill took place in the territory temporarily controlled by the Russian army, but the occupiers were not taking any measures to eliminate its consequences. The Special Taskforce continues to monitor the situation. This case has already been added to the unified register as an environmental crime.

On September 7, the Odesa Regional Prosecutor's Office reported it had started criminal proceedings under Article 441 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine on ecocide due to the mass death of dolphins due to Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine.

At the initiative of the prosecutor's office, examinations and autopsies of porpoises and white-sided dolphins found dead on the coasts were conducted. The samples will be sent for research at the University of Padua (Italy) and independent analysis on the structures of the inner ear of mammals at the University of Hannover (Germany).

Also, the prosecutor's office is preparing requests to the Republic of Bulgaria, the Republic of Turkey, and Romania to cooperate on similar cases of dolphin deaths.

 

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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