Of late, we have been hearing less and less about important happenings related to the war in Ukraine. Reports of mass shelling, fighting around nuclear power plants, destruction of forests, and water pollution caused by shelling of industrial centers have practically disappeared from mass media. Nevertheless, the war’s destructive “work” continues. We must remain vigilant. While events may not be visible to the media, they play a key role in understanding the environmental consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
At the end of March, we learned that the Russian invaders had established their own occupier administration of a protected area for crucially important steppe grasslands and one of Europe’s oldest nature reserves – Askania Nova Biosphere Reserve. This necessarily ended Ukrainian and European collegial support (including monetary) of the reserve. UWEC Work Group expert and leader of Ukrainian Nature Conservation Group Oleksiy Vasyliuk tells us about current events in Askania Nova and how the reserve is surviving:
Unfortunately, even areas of Ukraine liberated from the invaders cannot currently fulfill their ecosystem functions. Almost 40% of Ukraine’s territory has been covered with land mines, meaning local residents have lost access not only to nature reserves and national parks, but also simple forests. It is difficult to imagine the damage that results from lost ecosystem services, sometimes many years into the future. We can only begin the conversation:
Russians are also losing access to ecosystem services. In early 2023, under the guise of strengthening Moscow’s air defenses, forests adjacent to the UNESCO “Church of the Ascension, Kolomenskoye” World Heritage Site were destroyed. This is an illustrative example of how natural landscapes in Russia can be destroyed under false pretenses today. UWEC WG expert Evgeny Simonov shares his analysis:
Landscapes occupied for some time are especially impacted by intensive use resulting from the war. Today, we review the war’s impacts in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. UWEC WG experts Oleksii Vasyliuk and Yulia Spinova analyze the consequences of unregulated coal mining for the region, and UWEC WG’s Valeriia Kolodezhna’s infographic clearly reflects this multi-year process:
As we have reported more than once, the war also affects international environmental policy, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by United Nations member states. The Regional Forum on Sustainable Development Goals organized a discussion of the war’s impacts on achievement of SDGs, including expert Oleksii Vasyliuk. Representatives of Belarus’ current regime made a surprise attempt to block the event itself, resulting in only greater attention to the interplay of SDGs and the war. Learn more about the event and its results in coverage by Nelya Rakhimova, coordinator of Russia’s Coalition for Sustainable Development (KURS–Russia) and event co-organizer:
The longer the war goes on, the more “fake news” related to its environmental consequences we encounter. Russian propaganda makes especially active use of misleading news. UWEC WG expert Oleksii Vasyliuk examines stories about combat mosquitoes and lizards capable of spreading viral diseases, flooding Energodar, and errors by Ukrainian journalists:
In addition to our reporting and analysis, we are launching a special webinar series to counter misinformation about the war’s environmental consequences in Russian-speaking spaces. Although these webinars will be offered in Russian, we will, of course, share key conclusions and expert reports in both Ukrainian and English. Register for the seminars:
We continue to track the war’s environmental consequences on our Website, Twitter, and Facebook.
Wishing you strength and peace!
Alexei Ovchinnikov, Editor
UWEC Work Group