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Environment Ministry: Russian invasion affects over 20% of Ukraine's conservation areas

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk November 6, 2023 2:39 PM 2 min read
A goat grazes near the Ingulets river in the village of Afanasiivka, Mykolaiv Oblast, Ukraine on Nov. 2, 2023. (Viacheslav Ratynski/Anadolu via Getty Images)
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The Russian invasion has impacted more than 20% of Ukraine's nature conservation areas, the Environment Ministry reported on Nov. 6.

"War has a devastating effect on the environment, and its consequences can be felt not only for us, but also for future generations," the ministry said.

In total, 812 sites listed by the Ukrainian Nature Reserve Fund have been affected by Russian armed aggression against Ukraine, and 514 sites are still occupied by Russia.

Some protected areas have been destroyed by the Russian invasion, such the Dzharylhatskyi National Nature Park, on the coast of the Black Sea in Kherson Oblast.

Two wetlands in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, the Seven Lighthouses Floodplain and the Great and Small Kuchuguri Archipelago, have also been "practically destroyed," and 17 wetlands with "unique biodiversity" are at risk.

Moreover, 2.9 million hectares of Emerald Network territories, a European network of conservation areas, are currently under threat of destruction.

One of the most serious cases of environmental harm was caused by the destruction of the Kahkova hydroelectric plant on June 6, which caused massive floods in Ukraine's south and a large-scale humanitarian and environmental crisis.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Oct. 20 that the damage resulting from the destruction of the Kahkovka dam amounts to 3.8 billion euros ($4 billion) and is "the largest act of ecocide in the last 70 years."

The total environmental damage caused by Russian aggression in Ukraine amounts to more than 55.6 billion euros ($58.9 billion),  Shmyhal said.

Ukraine is working with international partners to help train Ukrainian law enforcement agencies to investigate ecocide, Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin also announced on Oct. 20.

Ukraine is "the first country in history" to investigate the mass destruction of the environment as a war crime, Kostin said.

By purposefully destroying the environment, Russia "is trying to destroy the future life of Ukrainians." Ecocide is therefore "a crime against Ukraine as a state and our future,"  Kostin said.

Economy Minister: Russia has committed 2,500 crimes against the environment
Ukraine has already documented 2,500 war crimes committed by Russia against the environment since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Economy Minister Yuliia Svyrydenko said during an event on Oct. 21.
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