Briefing on the environmental damage caused by the Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine (September 15-21, 2022)

23 September 2022, 15:20
News

Suffering defeats from the Armed Forces of Ukraine directly on the battlefield, Russian troops use terrorist methods and intentionally launch missile strikes at nuclear and thermal power plants and dams in Ukraine, polluting the environment and cynically violating the fundamental principles of international law.

On September 20, the Ukrainian parliament supported the Appeal to the international community with a request for the urgent establishment under the auspices of international organizations of a special body for environmental monitoring, ensuring its operations in Ukraine, and verifying Russian environmental crimes already recorded by the Ukrainian authorities, and empowerment of such a body with the relevant UN mandate to carry out necessary actions.

Ukraine continues ensuring international support for post-war environmental restoration. During a working visit to Prague, Ruslan Strilets, the Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine, discussed further cooperation between the ministries with Anna Hubáčková, the Minister of Environment of the Czech Republic. Furthermore, at the meeting with Jozef Síkela, the Minister of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic, Ruslan Strilets emphasized that despite the war, Ukraine is open to cooperation with international partners and continues to improve the investment climate.

"Ukraine faces a serious challenge: despite the war, we must adapt the national legislation with the European standards as soon as possible to become finally a full member of the European Union. In the environmental sector, we need to transform the environmental policy in a short period and implement the EU Directives not only on paper but also to enforce them in practice," - Ruslan Strilets commented.

On September 15, Minister Ruslan Strilets and the Ambassador of Egypt to Ukraine Ayman ElGammal discussed preparations for the UN Climate Change Conference COP27 to be held in Egypt and Ukraine's participation in this event.

Nuclear and radiation safety threats

Russian troops continue to commit acts of nuclear terrorism at nuclear power plants in Ukraine.

On September 19, at 00:20,the Russian army launched a missile attack on the industrial site of the South Ukraine nuclear power plant.

A powerful explosion took place just 300 meters from the SUNPP reactors. The shock wave damaged the NPP buildings, over 100 windows were damaged. A hydropower unit of the Oleksandrivska HPP, a part of the South Ukrainian power complex, shut down. Three high-voltage power lines were down as well. All three SUNPP power units are operating in normal mode. Fortunately, no one among the power plant staff was injured.

On September 21, as a result of another shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant by Russian troops, the equipment linking the ZNPP power unit No. 6 to the open switchgear was damaged.

Following the attack, the unit transformer and the unit auxiliary transformers were disconnected. Due to the loss of power, two diesel generators of the safety systems urgently started working to ensure the operations of the fuel cooling pumps.

On September 15, the IAEA Board of Governors, consisting of 35 UN member states representatives, adopted the Resolution on the safety, security, and safeguards implications of the situation in Ukraine. The Resolution acknowledges that the Russian persistent violent actions against nuclear facilities in Ukraine, including forcefully seizing control of nuclear facilities, and the ongoing presence of Russian forces and Rosatom personnel at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, continue to pose serious and direct threats to the safety and security of these facilities and their civilian personnel, thereby significantly raising the risk of a nuclear accident or incident, which endangers the population of Ukraine, neighbouring states and the international community.

The IAEA calls on the Russian Federation to immediately cease all actions against the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and any other nuclear facility in Ukraine in order for the competent Ukrainian authorities to regain full control over all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders.

On September 16, a convoy of 25 trucks of the Ukrainian state company Energoatom, having passed Russian checkpoints, reached the city of Energodar. The company ensured the delivery of the spare parts needed as a matter of priority for repairing damaged power lines and power units of the Zaporizhzhia NPP. In addition, the supply of chemical reagents needed for the operation of the ZNPP was replenished, and additional supplies of fuel were delivered to ensure the operation of diesel generators in case of a power outage at the plant.

Despite such measures taken by the Ukrainian side, the situation at the Zaporizhzhia NPP continues to threaten global radiation safety.

 

Recent attacks on infrastructure and industry sites

On September 15, Russian troops:

  • launched a rocket attack at an industrial enterprise in Kryvyi Rih;
  • hit with rockets an infrastructural object in the village of Chornomorka, the Mykolaiv region;
  • launched a missile attack at an infrastructure facility in the Kirovograd region;
  • damaged the premises of the thermal power plant in the Donetsk region.

On September 16, the occupiers:

  • destroyed a warehouse of the farm in Berezneguvate, the Mykolaiv region, a fire broke out;
  • fired at Ochakiv of the Mykolaiv region. As a result of the attack, there was no electricity and running water in some areas of the city.

On September 17, Russian troops:

  • shelled the Slovyansk TPP, located in the town of Mykolaivka in the Donetsk region. A fire broke out on the territory of the station, damaging its equipment;
  • attacked with missiles the Industrial district of Kharkiv. As a result of the strikes, a fire broke out at one of the enterprises;
  • launched a missile attack on Chuguiv, the Kharkiv region, damaging a critical infrastructure facility, enterprises, houses, and a gas station;
  • shelled Mykolaiv, causing damage to civilian infrastructure.

On September 18, Russian occupiers:

  • shelled settlements in the Kupyansk, Izyum, Chuguiv, and Kharkiv districts. Residential buildings, commercial buildings, and infrastructure objects were damaged by shelling;
  • shelled and damaged a farm and grain warehouses in the Bilopolska community of the Sumy region.

On September 19, Russian troops:

  • launched rocket attacks at infrastructure facilities in the Zaporizhzhia region;
  • shelled the Nikopol district of the Dnipropetrovsk region, destroying, among others, a solar power plant with more than 300 solar panels;
  • shelled and damaged the workshops of the Avdiyivka Coke Chemical Plant.

On September 20, the occupiers launched a rocket attack at an infrastructure facility in the Chuguiv district of the Kharkiv region and shelled and damaged a baking plant bakery in Nikopol, the Dnipropetrovsk region.

On September 21, the occupiers:

  • launched a missile attack at an infrastructure facility in the city of Zaporizhia;
  • launched 8 rockets and 35 air strikes at the Donetsk region, in particular, destroying buildings in Kurakhove and Toretsk.

Large-scale fires at infrastructure and industrial facilities lead to air poisoning with hazardous substances. Pollutants can be carried by winds over long distances.

According to the SEI, as a result of Russian shelling in the spring of 2022, large-scale fires occurred at electronic equipment warehouses in the villages of Gostomel and Gorenka, the Kyiv region. As a result of fires, more than 4,000 tons of pollutants were released into the air, among them: nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and heavy metals. The total amount of damage caused as a result of the release of dangerous substances into the atmospheric air is estimated at UAH 7.3 million.

As a result of the conducted analysis of soil samples, environmental inspectors established that the maximum allowable concentrations of petroleum products were exceeded by 43 times and oils by 23 times. The damage to the soil is estimated at UAH 16 million.

As a result of the full-scale invasion of Russia, 90% of wind power capacities in Ukraine have been taken out, Bloomberg reports. This is stated in the study from REN21, a renewable energy think tank, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). It also reports that due to the armed aggression of the Russian Federation, 30% of solar power capacity in the country is out of operation. Before the full-scale war started, Ukraine had made the greatest recent gains in solar and wind power among the 17 countries in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Southeast and Eastern Europe region, adding 8.3 gigawatts (GW) of capacity between 2017 and 2021.

Pollution caused directly by hostilities

According to Ukraine’s State Emergency Service, from February 24 to  September 19, 202,857 explosive devices, including 2,110 aircraft bombs, were neutralized in Ukraine. An area of 70,856 hectares was surveyed for explosives.

According to President Volodymyr Zelensky, since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Russian troops have launched more than 3,800 missiles at Ukraine.

The Russian occupiers shelled the village of Ozerne in the Donetsk region with prohibited phosphorus munitions. A video recording of the moment of shelling was taken from a drone and published on September 20.

 

The use of phosphorus bombs leads to chemical soil pollution. Phosphorus compounds can remain in the ground for several years, and an excess of phosphates in the soil dramatically harms the growth and development of flora and fauna in the hostilities zone.

According to the KSE Institute report, since the beginning of the full-scale war of Russia against Ukraine, at least 15,300 multi-apartment buildings, 115,900 private houses, 44 social centers, 1,118 secondary education institutions, 1,991 shops, 593 pharmacies, 188,100 private cars, 9,500 buses, 492 trams and trolleybuses, 978 medical facilities, 511 administrative buildings have been damaged, destroyed or captured.

The destruction of buildings and settlements leads to environmental pollution with construction debris and asbestos. The consequences of such pollution for the environment will be felt for years.

Damage to natural reserves and protected ecosystems

According to the SEI report, 3,708 hectares of the protected area of the Kinburn Peninsula in the Mykolaiv region burned down due to Russian military activities. The total damage to the atmosphere caused by these fires is over UAH 15.63 billion.

The Kinburn Peninsula separates the Black Sea and the Dnieper-Bug estuary. It is located within the borders of the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions and hosts several nature conservation objects: two areas of the Black Sea Biosphere Reserve (Volyzhyn Forest and Solonoozerna), the Ivory Coast of Sviatoslav National Nature Park, the Kinburn Spit Regional Landscape Park, the Yagorlytska Bay wetlands, etc. The peninsula is an integral part of the "environmental corridor" of migration routes of a vast number of birds. According to scientists, about 300 species of birds can be found here because this territory has favorable conditions for their nesting, seasonal concentrations, and wintering. In 2001, a record number of rare pink pelicans in Eastern Europe was recorded in the Kinburn Spit. Currently, the Kinburn Peninsula is a unique ecosystem, which is constantly and mercilessly affected by fires caused by military aggression.

According to media reports, the Russian army aircraft are harming animals living in the unique steppe reserve of Askania Nova. To avoid being hit by Ukrainian air defense forces, the Russian army planes fly at low altitudes, and this is very frightening to ungulates - even huge bison and buffalos. They run away in a panic after seeing a threatening shadow in the sky and hearing an inexplicable roar. According to a reserve employee, two nilgai antelopes were even injured when they ran away due to an aerial threat. Ukrainian legislation obliges any air transport to stay at the height of at least two kilometers above nature reserves, but the Russian military cynically violates all rules of war.

Damage to freshwater resources

On September 15, the Russian military launched a second missile attack on hydrotechnical structures in Kryvyi Rih.

Due to the attack,  the water in the Ingulets River temporarily turned red and brown. It was potentially caused by hematite, an iron mineral, present in the local soil, rocks, and materials used to construct a dam. The unusual color of the water in the Ingulets River is gradually decreasing.

The preliminary results of water samples taken on September 16 in the Ingulets River within the city of Kryvyi Rih, based on 13 indicators, show that the water quality is within the normative values ​​for drinking needs in the three samples taken.

The content of chlorides in the water of the Ingulets River at the Andriivka water station (60 km from the city of Kryvyi Rih) had significant fluctuations. On September 15, the maximum mark reached 2200 m/l, and on September 16 - 1180 mg/l (while the norm for drinking purposes is 350 mg/l). As of the morning of September 17, the chloride content was 220 mg/l. The hardness decreased from 19 to 6 mg-eq/l, with a norm of 7 mg-eq/l for drinking needs. This spike in indicators was caused by the passage of a wave of water with high salt content.

Recently, the Russian army has launched and continues to launch rocket attacks on the dam of the Pechenihy reservoir in the Kharkiv region. There is a probable threat of the destruction of the dam of the Pechenihy hydroelectric complex, which can lead to catastrophic flooding of the territories downstream.

According to the State Agency of Water Resources of Ukraine, after the start of the full-scale invasion, the state water monitoring was partially paralyzed. Two of the four leading laboratories of the State Water Agency suspended measurements in the north, center, and east of Ukraine - namely, the water monitoring laboratories of the eastern region (in Slovyansk) and the northern region (in Vyshhorod).

Thanks to the professionalism of the specialists of the State Water Agency, the state surface water monitoring system overcame the challenges of wartime. In August, water samples were taken at 70% of the 583 points planned by the state program. The water monitoring laboratory of the Western region (Ivano-Frankivsk) took over the work in an intensified mode, ensuring measurements in 6 river basins.

The Water Monitoring Laboratory of the Northern Region (Vyshhorod), immediately after the de-occupation of the Kyiv region, renewed conducting research and water sampling in the Dnipro basin.

Thanks to the concerted actions of the Water Monitoring Laboratory of the Eastern Region (Slovyansk), laboratory specialists and new modern equipment were evacuated in time. Currently, laboratory specialists continue to monitor the quality of the surface waters of the Don basin at the points where the operational military situation allows.

The BBC investigation published on September 21, proves that in the south of Ukraine, damaging the water infrastructure and blocking access to water has become a tool for the Russian military.

 

Black and Azov Seas

Ukrainian seaports ensure the export of food products for 400 million people, mostly in Africa and Asia, almost 50 million of them currently suffer from hunger. Russia purposefully and systematically, as part of a hybrid war against the entire civilized world, uses food terror as a weapon and thus stimulates high inflation in the world, hunger, and mass migration.

On September 20, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine supported the Statement "On the aggression of the Russian Federation in the areas of the Black and Azov Seas and the Kerch Strait". With this statement, Ukraine appealed to the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and the governments and parliaments of foreign countries to condemn the aggression of the Russian Federation in the areas of the Black and Azov Seas and the Kerch Strait, and to provide assistance to Ukraine as a victim of aggression, in the realization of the inalienable right to self-defense, as well as to take effective collective measures to eliminate the threat to peace and suppress acts of aggression by the Russian Federation in the areas of the Black and Azov Seas and the Kerch Strait, in particular, to conduct operations to ensure freedom of navigation.

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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