Russian invasion causing colossal damage to Ukrainian environment

23 February, 07:14 PM
More than 2,300 crimes against nature by the Russian army have already been documented (Photo:Kateryna Kvashyntska/WWF-Україна)

More than 2,300 crimes against nature by the Russian army have already been documented (Photo:Kateryna Kvashyntska/WWF-Україна)

Ukraine’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources and the State Environmental Inspection have already documented more than 2,300 Russian crimes against nature, Ecology Minister Ruslan Strilets said at a briefing on Feb. 23.

In monetary terms, the losses are calculated to have already amounted to almost UAH 1.9 trillion ($52 billion), Strilets said.

He said one fifth of Ukrainian nature reserves had been affected by hostilities over the year, with 10 national natural parks, eight nature reserves, and two biosphere reserves being, or having been, under Russian occupation.

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“Not every European country has as much forest as the Russians have destroyed in Ukraine,” he said.

“Today, almost 500,000 hectares are under occupation or are in the war zone. Another 2.4 million hectares of forests have already been liberated and need to be restored. It is interesting that almost the same amount, or three million hectares, was affected by wildfires in Siberia in the first four months of last year. That is, instead of putting out wildfires at home, Russian aviation bombed our cities and burned our forests.”

Strilets said about 600 species of fauna and 750 species of flora were under threat of destruction, including ones from the Red List of endangered species. In the Black Sea, about 1,000 cases of dolphin deaths have already been recorded on the coasts of Ukraine, Bulgaria and Turkey.

The minister added that the most industrially developed part of Ukraine is located in the war zone, and 132 mineral deposits have been occupied so far.

“Furthermore, we have faced unprecedented nuclear terror since the first days of the full-scale invasion,” Strilets said.

“The Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant was under occupation for 35 days and suffered losses of UAH 3.2 billion ($87.5 million). Today, we have another challenge – the situation with Russia’s actions on the Kakhovka water reservoir could have colossal consequences. It’s not only the deprivation of drinking water for one million Ukrainians – a decrease in the water level in the reservoir could lead to the failure of the cooling systems at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.”

The official also said that Russia’s actions had contributed to the worsening of the climate crisis, which affects the whole world.

According to Strilets, due to the aggressor’s actions, Ukraine is dealing with additional direct emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere of about 33 million tons. Of that, more than 23 million tons of greenhouse gases were released into the atmosphere from wildfires in forests and fires on agricultural and other facilities during the hostilities, he added.

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