Briefing on the environmental damage caused by the Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine (October 13-19, 2022)

22 October 2022, 10:49
News

Using missiles and suicide drones, Russian invaders continue to carry out terrorist acts against the civilian population and Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, causing significant environmental damage.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection’s team has updated the mobile application and web resource EcoZagroza, expanding its functionality. In particular, the user cabinet, data from 553 water resources quality monitoring stations, and a map of air raid alerts have become available in the updated version. The new dashboard shows the amount of environmental damage caused by the war that the State Environmental Inspectorate calculated.

"We continue to work on ensuring that everyone has access to the information on environmental indicators on their smartphone - in a convenient and understandable format, whenever needed. Because today informed means armed. And clearly, in this sense, digitalization simplifies life. I would also like to remind you that via EcoZagroza, Ukrainians can report to our Ministry all cases of environmental damage that they have witnessed. Because now we need to assess the full extent of the damage to make the occupier compensate our losses in full. So please use your smartphone or computer and join our environmental battalion", - commented Ruslan Strilets, the Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine.

The direct damage caused to the climate by the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine is estimated at least 31 million tons of carbon-dioxide-equivalent emissions. This was stated by Minister Ruslan Strilets in his comment for The Washington Post. The article covers the accounting of greenhouse gas emissions in Crimea and other temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, as well as environmental damage as a result of the war.

To simplify and make more convenient buying firewood in Ukraine on the eve of a difficult winter season, Ukraine’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and the State Agency of Forest Resources launched the state online store "DrovaYe". Via the new website, it is possible to buy firewood and order delivery just in a few clicks. Additional harvesting of firewood in 2022 is carried out at the expense of the unused wood harvesting limit from the previous years.

Nuclear and radiation safety threats

The occupiers continue to neglect the nuclear safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station threatening the world with a radiation disaster.

On October 13, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution in which Russia is recognized as a terrorist regime. The document states that while continuing its illegal occupation and militarization of the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia, the leadership of the Russian Federation has increased threats of nuclear warfare. According to the PACE resolution, in addition to being abhorrent and reckless, such threats are in breach of international law and incompatible with the responsibilities of a nuclear power holding a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. Also, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe appealed to the Russian Federation to fully withdraw from all Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, stop and refrain from making them the target of any military activity and cooperate fully with the IAEA to ensure their safety and security.

On October 17, the Russian military shelled substations of critical infrastructure in the territory controlled by Ukraine, as a consequence the last 750kV ZNPP-Dnipro power line was disconnected. As a result, the Zaporizhzhia NPP was again completely cut off from the external power supply. Diesel generators were switched on automatically to cool the active zones of the NPP power units.

In addition, the 750 kV power line South Ukrainian NPP - Dnipro was disconnected, but without affecting the South Ukrainian NPP operations.

While shelling the entire territory of Ukraine, the Russian invaders deliberately aimed at substations connected by high-voltage power lines to Ukrainian nuclear power plants. Although these substations are located quite far (160–200 km) from Ukrainian nuclear power plants, damaging them causes the disconnection of power lines through which electricity is transferred from the nuclear power plant to the Ukrainian energy system. In case these power lines are disconnected, the power units of the NPPs are shut down in emergency mode, so the power plants get in blackout mode and diesel generators switch on.

Russian attacks causing damage to the energy infrastructure connected to nuclear plants are the same evidence of nuclear terrorism as the direct shelling of the Zaporizhzhia NPP and lead to radiation accident threats.

In addition to shelling, the occupiers continued to abuse the personnel of the occupied Zaporizhzhia NPP. On October 17, the Russian military kidnapped Oleg Kostyukov, the head of the IT Department at the Zaporizhzhia NPP, and Oleg Osheka, the assistant to the General Director. Currently, nothing is known about their whereabouts and condition.

Recent attacks on infrastructure and industry sites

According to the State Emergency Service, from October 7 to 18, Russia carried out about 190 strikes in 16 regions of Ukraine. The largest number of strikes targeted the Kyiv region and the city of Kyiv. For the most part, Russian strikes were aimed at critical infrastructure facilities, particularly at energy facilities, and civilian facilities, including private and multi-story residential buildings. As a result of these massive attacks, more than 70 Ukrainian civilians were killed, more than 240 people were injured, and more than 380 objects were damaged. In particular:

On October 13, Russian troops:

  • massively attacked Mykolaiv with S-300 missiles, damaging several civilian objects;
  • shelled and damaged a factory in Nikopol;
  • hit a critical infrastructure facility in the Kyiv region with kamikaze drones.

On October 14, the occupiers:

  • shelled and damaged an enterprise in the Synelnykivskyi district of the Dnipropetrovsk region;
  • launched a missile strike damaging an infrastructure facility in the Chuguyiv district of the Kharkiv region;
  • fired rockets at infrastructure facilities in Zaporizhzhia, fires broke out at the site of the attack.

On October 15, Russian occupiers:

  • shelled Kostyantynivka, the Donetsk region, damaging a food industry enterprise;
  • launched a missile strike that caused severe destruction of an energy infrastructure facility in the Kyiv region.

On October 16, Russian troops:

  • hit industrial infrastructure facilities and a pharmaceutical warehouse in Mykolaiv with drones, 2 tanks with unrefined oil caught fire on the territory of an enterprise in the Zavodskyi district, the fire was extinguished on an area of ​​1,000 square meters. Also, as a result of the attack, the building of the production workshop caught fire in an area of 800 square meters;
  • shelled and damaged a transport enterprise in Nikopol and an industrial enterprise in Marganets, the Dnipropetrovsk region.

On October 17, the Russian military:

  • attacked energy facilities and a residential building in Kyiv with kamikaze drones, causing fires and destruction of buildings;
  • launched missiles at civil infrastructure facilities in Dnipropetrovsk, Sumy, and Odesa regions;
  • shelled an elevator and warehouses with agricultural machinery in the Berislav district of the Kherson region;
  • shelled an enterprise in Slovyansk, the Donetsk region.

On October 18, the occupiers:

  • attacked infrastructure facilities in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Dnipro, Zhytomyr, Sumy, Zaporizhzhia, and the Dnipropetrovsk region;
  • shelled a coke chemical plant and a thermal power plant in the Donetsk region.

On October 19, Russian troops struck critical infrastructure facilities in the Chernihiv, Vinnytsia, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Zaporizhzhia regions.

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

Since the start of the full-scale invasion in February, Russian attacks have caused hundreds of potentially harmful incidents at more than 200 industrial facilities in Ukraine. This is stated in a detailed thematic briefing published by international non-governmental organizations Conflict and Environment Observatory and Zoï Environment Network.

 

Pollution caused directly by hostilities

According to Ukraine’s State Emergency Service, from February 24 to  October 19, 249,650 explosive devices, including 2,136 aircraft bombs, were neutralized in Ukraine. An area of 73,876 hectares was surveyed for explosives.

According to the SEI, as a result of a Russian missile attack on one of Kyiv's thermal power plants on October 10, a land plot was clogged with destruction waste. The amount of damage to the environment amounted to almost UAH 21 million.

In the de-occupied territories of the Kharkiv region, the State Environmental Inspectorate calculated colossal damages to the environment. From September 20 to October 15, 2022, representatives of SEI inspected 26 sites in the de-occupied territories of the Kharkiv region. They recorded numerous facts of violation of the requirements of environmental protection legislation and damage to natural resources caused by the armed aggression of the occupiers.

In particular, experts of the SEI established the facts of littering of land plots with plastic, wood, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, glass, paper, brick, slate, and concrete on a total area of ​​more than 55,725 square meters. As a result of this pollution, the environmental damage is estimated at over UAH 3.2 billion.

An unorganized release of pollutants into the atmosphere during forest fires in the Andriivske Forestry caused environmental losses in the amount of over UAH 61.6 million.

According to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, in almost 8 months of the war, the Russian occupying forces lost more than 15,000 pieces of equipment. Destroyed military equipment and ammunition, as well as exploded missiles and air bombs, pollute the soil and groundwater with chemicals, including heavy metals. The destroyed equipment left in rivers and lakes is also dangerous because metal oxidation can lead to water pollution.

Damage to natural reserves and protected ecosystems

The Askania-Nova biosphere reserve has been under occupation for 8 months. According to mass media reports, employees of the reserve continue to protect the reserve’s territory and take care of its animals and dendrological park. Benefactors help to cover the reserve's expenses on food and veterinary drugs.

Askania-Nova is a valuable reserve for Ukraine, and its ecosystem is not as independent as in other parks. One and a half thousand ungulates, the zoo, and many birds live in this reserve in semi-wild conditions, and their lives depend entirely on the reserve’s employees. If Askania Nova employees evacuate, animals will die. That is why most of the employees are still there.

The northern border of the Dvorichanskyi National Park in the Kharkiv region coincides with the state border with Russia. During the full-scale invasion of Russian troops, the national park was occupied in the first days. In September, the Ukrainian military liberated the territory of the park. Even during the occupation, scientists continued to work: they collected field material on entomology and conducted botanical research. Read more about their work in the article.

The war caused significant damage to the Drevlianskyi nature reserve in the Zhytomyr region. According to SEI, due to forest fires in the reserve, damage to the environment is estimated at UAH 14.5 billion. A large part of the reserve’s territory remains contaminated with mines. In the BBC article, read more about the consequences of the war for the reserve, which is called Europe's Amazon due to its rich wildlife.

Currently, in Ukraine, 160 territories of the Emerald Network (2.9 million hectares) are under threat of destruction due to war. The Emerald Network is an apt name for a network of Areas of Special Conservation Interest (ASCI) in Europe. These areas were brought together and endowed with a single conservation status for the whole of Europe. To be granted this status, an area must provide an adequate level of protection for habitats and flora and fauna species that have been identified as European priorities.

The Ukraine War Environmental Consequences Work Group project published a detailed infographic on the impact of the war on the Emerald Network in Ukraine.

 

Damage to freshwater resources

Russian troops are deliberately striking at the infrastructure for water intake, purification, and supply, as well as sewage treatment facilities. Due to the Russian aggression, water supply and sewerage facilities in the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv, and Mykolaiv regions have been significantly damaged.

According to the SEI, during the hostilities in the Sumy district, a road bridge across the Psel River near the village of Byshkin was destroyed. As a result, more than 600 tons of destroyed bridge structures fell directly into the river. Specialists of the SEI in the Sumy region estimated that the damage caused by water pollution is almost UAH 140 million.

Due to constant shelling by Russian troops, the dam of the Oskil reservoir in the Kharkiv region was destroyed. As a result, the water level in the reservoir dropped to a critical level. This led to the destruction of biological activity in the water area of ​​the reservoir and the massive death of ​​aquatic living resources. According to the SEI, the amount of environmental damage is assessed at UAH 287.3 million.

 

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 October 15, the occupiers attacked the water area of ​​the Ochakiv community with a mortar. On October 16, a Russian kamikaze drone hit the port infrastructure in the Mykolaiv district.

 

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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