“The war is slowing down… All processes are becoming more complicated and slower,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently said. But this does not mean that the danger for people and nature has grown any less. In fact, the likelihood of a disaster is as high as ever, and has not receded since the destruction of the dam at the Kakhovka hydropower plant. For example, the IAEA is currently reporting on an increase in military activity near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Unfortunately, the war goes on, and it is as important as ever to understand what is happening, to speak about it, and to find solutions and ways out which will allow us to restore both the cities and nature that have suffered from the conflict.
The restoration of Ukraine was the main subject of discussion at the URC23 conference which took place in London in June. While the conference can hardly be labeled “shameful” – as was the case with last year’s meeting in Lugano – no ambitious solutions were presented during the event. Ukrainian environmental journalist Viktoria Hubareva has prepared an exclusive overview for UWEC Work Group of what happened in London at the end of June.
In order to develop a recovery plan for Ukraine, it is also necessary to understand the consequences of the full-scale invasion. As we have already noted on several occasions, many consequences are of a transnational character. The war is now increasingly spreading beyond the borders of Ukraine and Russia. Military drones have twice been recorded falling onto Romanian soil in recent days, and the serious impact of military activity on transborder territories such as the Black Sea are clear. You can read about the negative effects of the full-scale invasion on the waters of one of the region’s most important seas in the article by Sofya Sadohurska, an expert from the Ukrainian environmental organization Ecodia.
Another example of cross-border influence is the militarization of borders. This is felt especially strongly in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. These countries are not only Ukraine’s most active supporters, but have a more comprehensive view of the war. Following the migrant crisis on the border with Belarus in 2021, they took the decision to build and strengthen fences along their frontiers. Ukraine is also reinforcing its border with Belarus. A barrier like this is seen as one of the ways of demilitarizing the border with Russia after the end of the war. However, these decisions, driven by security policies, have an extremely negative impact on the environment. Read about the impact of fences and enclosures on wild animal populations in Vadim Kirilyuk’s article:
- Beasts and Barriers: Obstacles along international borders and their impact on land-based vertebrates
As we have previously reported, the war also has consequences in regions far from the combat zone, where nature is also suffering as a result of the invasion. The imposition of sanctions and the refusal to finance the war through the purchase of carbon-based fuels in Russia has seen the aggressor begin to seek other sales markets. The most prospective of these is China, to which Moscow now plans to redirect its gas supplies. This, however, will require the building of new infrastructure, which will potentially pass through the unique natural landscapes of Altai or Tunka. Unfortunately, today there is almost nobody left to protect them, and stopping the construction of a pipeline, like several years ago, will be impossible – largely thanks to the designation of NGOs such as the Altai Project as “undesirable.” You can read about the possible consequences and how Altai may suffer from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in our article:
You can also learn about the increasingly intense persecution of environmental activists in Russia and Belarus since the beginning of the full-scale invasion by watching recordings from our webinar, organized in collaboration with RSF Sweden and Svea Green Foundation.
- Webinar #4. Persecution of environmental activists in Russia and Belarus before and after the start of Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine
The destruction of nature as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is increasingly frequently being described as ecocide. But while this term has a long history – discussions of what constitutes ecocide have been ongoing since the 1970s – it remains not only unrecognized in international practice, but there is no established definition at national level. What do we understand by ecocide? To what degree are Ukraine and Russia willing to integrate ecocide into their legal system? Which other countries recognize ecocide? How is data on ecocide being gathered in Ukraine? We have tried to answer these and other questions in our introductory article on the subject:
We wish you strength and peace!
Alexej Ovchinnikov, editor, UWEC Work Group