Thick black smoke covers the sky during the war between Ukraine and Russia. Disaster in Ukraine. – 24 Mar 2023 (Shutterstock)
By Tetiana Kozachanska
The environmental aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine has largely been overlooked in discussions of the ongoing conflict.
Scientists and activists around the world have called for the reduction of CO2 emissions to fight climate change. However, the catastrophic environmental consequences caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine have been neglected in this discourse.
For the past year, the efforts of the international community have been directed to support Ukrainian resistance and to save human lives, although, not much could have been done to support the Ukrainian ecosystem and save the local biosphere.
In an interview with The New York Times, Doug Weir, the Research and Policy Director at the Conflict and Environment Observatory, highlighted how the environment is frequently impacted by war without receiving sufficient attention or acknowledgment.
“The environment is the silent victim of conflicts,” said Weir.
While newspapers often focus on Russia’s crimes against humanity in their headlines, environmental issues often fail to garner public attention and remain largely invisible to the general public.
As of December 2022, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine reported more than 2200 cases of ecocide, the deliberate destruction of the natural environment.
These include “the blowing up of fuel and lubricant warehouses, oil product storages with the corresponding consequences for the environment … airstrikes on enterprises that use dangerous chemicals in production … the damage and destruction of treatment facilities, and the spilling of sewage into reservoirs, as well as damage to the ground cover, burning of forests––especially in the territories of the nature reserve fund.”
The Ministry emphasized that there are no borders from pollution caused by shelling, implying mainly the shared atmosphere and rivers that cross national boundaries.
A plan to restore the environment after the war’s end is already in development.
Climate activists from Friday For Future Ukraine attended the Group of Seven (G7) summit–– an organization of the world’s seven largest “advanced” economies, which dominate global trade and the international financial system such as Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States––in Germany in June 2022.
They demanded an immediate full embargo on Russian fossil fuels, as well as a coal phase-out by 2030, according to their social media. They share the message of dirty money from fossil fuels paying for the genocide of a peaceful nation and organize strikes around Europe to pressure decision-makers.
Right now, Ukraine is paying an unjust price for the forced war not only by sacrificing human lives but also by its nature.
Who will pay the price for restoring the fertile land of the country famous for its agriculture––and what is this price?