As world leaders gather for meetings at the UN’s Climate Ambition Summit , the urgency of addressing the climate crisis cannot be overstated. At the same time, we must confront Russia’s ongoing war in Source : kyivindependent.com/svitlana-…
Episode #25 of our weekly video podcast “This Week in Ukraine” is dedicated to Ukraine’s notorious oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, his unprecedented arrest, and the changing political climate for Ukrainian Source : kyivindependent.com/this-week…
Four Ukrainian women have been included in Time magazine’s emerging leaders list, which recognises “rising leaders in in health, climate, business, sports, the arts, and more,” Time announced on Sept. Source : www.weareukraine.info/four-ukra…
The United States and Australia condemned Russia’s weaponization of food in a joint statement on July 29, calling on world powers such as China to influence Russia’s direction in the war on Ukraine.
Russia’s recent withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative has heightened fears of food insecurity globally, including in China.
The representatives encouraged China to “address issues of global and shared interest including climate change, global food and nutrition security, trade, and macroeconomic stability."
The two countries also condemned Iran’s supply of drones to Russia and called Russian nuclear threats an “unacceptable menace.”
China has promised multiple times to not send arms to Russia in support of the war in Ukraine, and mostly portrays itself as a neutral state. Despite this the country has previously been found supplying Russia with military aid, including drones, semiconductors, and fighter jet parts.Just days before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February, China’s leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a “friendship without limits,” agreeing there would be no “forbidden areas of cooperation.” Unsurprisingly then, Beijing did not condemn Russia’s all-out w…
The African continent is becoming a priority in Ukrainian foreign policy. Ukraine is one of the guarantors of food security in this region of dynamic development, and our diplomatic efforts are already demonstrating results in changing the paradigm of African politics. The position of African countries during the voting in the UN General Assembly eloquently confirms this. However, Africa remains a hotbed of geopolitical confrontation.
Russian imperialists want to impose their will on the countries of Africa and take advantage of them in their interests. The Russia-Africa Summit, scheduled for July 27−28, should be seen as a preparation for the geopolitical gripe into which the Russians want to drive the peoples of Africa.
In fact, this forum aims to form the impression of a breakthrough in the international isolation of Russia, creating the illusion of support for the Kremlin by the so-called “world majority,” an important part of which is the African population of the planet. And while this participation in someone else’s performance is still relatively voluntary, African leaders should think about the role assigned to them.
In reality, it is not the solidarity with Russian follies that is in the interests of most people and countries of the world, but the preservation of the effectiveness of international law and security architecture based on UN documents and institutions.
Clear principles and rules protect primarily those who cannot or do not plan to defend themselves with nuclear weapons and their murderous equivalents. Conversely, for the aggressor, which is today’s Russia, international law stands in the way. Therefore, Moscow seeks not only to destroy Ukraine, but also to discredit the rules that prohibit it from doing so.
The Kremlin’s global goal is to destroy the international order and, instead of the force of law, to impose the rule of force in relations between countries. This is something that threatens African countries no less than Ukraine.
Russia’s struggle against the current international security architecture threatens not only the return to times of the war of all against all, but also the disruption of sustainable development programmes, climate change control, and systemic international support for vulnerable societies in the fight against hunger and poverty.
Russia withdrew from the grain deal, and this threatens to increase prices for agricultural products and the emergence of an acute shortage of food available to African countries. Due to the Russian counteraction, in particular, the shelling of the port infrastructure and granaries of Ukraine, the charitable initiative of the President of Ukraine Grain from Ukraine, funded by the United Nations, is also at risk of disruption.
Russia invariably covers its struggle against the West (and in fact against the principles of civilized coexistence in the world) with anti-colonial rhetoric inherited from the Soviet Union.
Probably, Moscow hopes for widespread blindness in African countries, which Russia has chosen as its “wards.” After all, in the modern world, it is impossible to conceal the glaring facts of the Kremlin’s enslavement of dozens of indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation — depriving them of their languages, rights, and prospects.
Meanwhile, Russia’s colonial appetites are not at all limited to its own (the world’s largest) territory, as well as neighbouring Ukraine. The Russian tsars were late to the redistribution of the African continent by European colonizers in the 19th century. Now, Putin’s regime seeks to make up for what was lost and seize the natural resources of Africa.
Russia uses mercenaries of Wagner PMC to interfere in the internal affairs of the continent’s states, implementing operations to overthrow legitimate governments (Mali, Burkina Faso). Instead of guarding, Russian “helpers” provoke political instability and only exacerbate old problems in African countries. The activities of Russian mercenaries fuel the flames of separatism and religious extremism.
What political model can Russia export to Africa, if it is a corrupt, aggressive dictatorship that keeps its population in submission through repression and zombifying propaganda? Moscow can offer nothing but corruption, lies, terror, and wars to Africa.
The Kremlin considers the countries of “Black Africa” underdeveloped, naturally prone to atrocities and barbarism. Unlike the West, Russia will not, as they say, “impose democracy.” Instead, Russia came to corrupt its elites and teach them to keep their peoples in lawlessness.
By methods of blackmail and bribery, Moscow is trying to get the votes of African countries in the UN. These are votes against Ukraine and against international law. However, so far, Russian diplomacy has not won the coveted victories.
On the contrary, after two tours of African countries by Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and the launch of a new strategy for Ukraine’s interaction with Africa, Kyiv’s position in the General Assembly is becoming stronger. African countries repeatedly support resolutions aimed at restoring international law. These votes meet primarily the national interests of the African countries themselves.
Lavrov can participate in colourful African rituals as much as he wants, but that doesn’t change the fact that he represents a country with deep-rooted racism, xenophobia, and chauvinism. The true attitude of Russia towards African leaders was evidenced when it fired missiles at Kyiv during the stay of a peacekeeping delegation from African countries on June 23 this year.
Independent Ukraine is the result of a long anti-colonial struggle, whose milestones sometimes differed little from the events of African decolonization. Ukrainians understand perfectly the national feelings of the peoples of Africa, who do not tolerate arrogance and hypocrisy. We are natural allies in upholding the sovereignty and principles of international law that guarantee freedom and territorial integrity to all.
Indeed, the growth of Ukrainian interest in Africa is dictated primarily by the challenges of Russian aggression. But the mutual interest of African countries in Ukraine can bring them practical benefits. Ukraine is extremely effective in finding allies and support to repel aggression. This experience is invaluable and worthy of following by those who find themselves in a similar situation.
The common interest in ensuring food security has already been discussed. But there can be many more areas of mutually beneficial cooperation: education, technology, construction, energy, etc.
Nowadays, Ukraine is discovering Africa, but this is not the first time we are here. After all, many positive examples of cooperation with the USSR (the Putin regime parasitizes on the nostalgia for it) are in fact precisely the Ukrainian contribution and merit. It’s just that Ukraine itself did not get rid of Moscow’s colonial domination back then, and therefore its people, resources, and work for the benefit of international friendship were held under the guise of “Soviet” (and therefore “Russian”). It is time for Africa to rediscover Ukraine as well.
While Belarusian is one of the two official state languages in Belarus, the decision to speak, read, and write it can be a dangerous choice for Belarusians.
Growing up, the Belarusian poet and translator Valzhyna Mort was aware of how the Belarusian language was perceived in her country.
“Belarusian was mocked for its ‘village sound,’ and was generally considered useless – a language that couldn’t possibly express daily life in Belarus. This is a sad irony, of course,” Mort told the Kyiv Independent.
The truth was that “the Russian language didn’t express what it means to be a little girl in Soviet Belarus and then, after the Soviet collapse, living in a colonial schizophrenia of waking up in your country in which nothing is actually yours,” Mort added.
In spite of more than two centuries of Russification policies imposed on the country, Belarusian writers say that their language and culture have quietly persevered.
After the eruption of mass protests in 2020 against Alexander Lukashenko’s fraudulent presidential election “victory,” more Belarusians became curious about their heritage and how it sets them apart from Russia.
Those publicly doing so might now face imprisonment in Lukashenko’s Belarus.
People who speak Belarusian are considered to be against the regime and have been arrested, fined, or imprisoned on politically-motivated charges. Despite that risk, many see preserving the Belarusian language and culture as continuing their fight for a democratic and truly independent country.
Belarusian language’s precarious status in Lukashenko’s Belarus
After years of oppression, there was hope that a Belarusian cultural revival would follow the dissolution of the Soviet Union. However, that brief window of opportunity was shut by Lukashenko’s rapid accession to power.
After gaining independence in 1991, Belarus' national white-red-white flag and the Pahonia emblem – now symbols of resistance against Lukashenko’s dictatorship – were made official symbols of the country, and the Belarusian language enjoyed support from the state.
For a brief moment, Belarusian was the country’s sole official language.
After Lukashenko took power, a hardline approach toward the country’s culture and language was introduced.
Lukashenko became president in July 1994 and, in 1995, he put forward a referendum that would also make Russian an official state language.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) later released a report suggesting that Lukashenko’s government had purposefully attempted to influence the outcome of the referendum, as well as the parliamentary elections held that year.
The legality of the 1995 referendum has been questioned by legal scholars and human rights organizations, as well as members of the Belarusian opposition.
Lukashenko has also been publicly challenged over the years by politicians and journalists alike for favoring the Russian language over Belarusian.
Additionally, he has said that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has “thanked” him for “not demonizing” the Russian language as Putin claimed had been done in other countries.
Despite his assertion that using either language is a legitimate choice, Lukashenko has conveyed on numerous occasions that he perceives the Belarusian language as inferior.
“People who speak Belarusian cannot do anything, because nothing great can be expressed in Belarusian. The Belarusian language is a poor language. There are only two great languages in the world: Russian and English,” he famously said back in 2006.
In 2023, you will rarely hear Belarusian on the streets of Minsk and other major cities, while the white-red-white flag and the Pahonia emblem can land you in jail.
Centuries of Russification
For generations, Belarusians have been discriminated against, attacked, and even killed for embracing their culture.
Tsimokh Akudovich, a Belarusian historian who works with the media platform Belsat, told the Kyiv Independent that Belarusian nationalism has always been deeply rooted in the unique sense of Belarusian cultural identity and shaped by the Belarusian language.
“The Belarusian language has always defined the geographical boundaries of our nation and became a place of accumulation of intellectual resources and images. All of Belarus’ political movements during the last 100 years were strongly tied to the Belarusian language and culture,” Akudovich said.
According to Akudovich, this is why every power that set out to subjugate the nation was keen on attacking the language and those who spoke it.
During the Soviet Union, authorities made a point of targeting Belarusian cultural figures.
While there was a brief period in the 1920s when Belarusian language and culture were permitted to thrive, it was followed by two decades of brutal repressions. As a result, only a handful of Belarusian writers, musicians, and academics managed to survive – many were sent to the gulags or killed outright.
The Holocaust also devastated the Belarusian Jewish population. According to Swedish-American historian Per Anders Rudling, Belarus used to have one of the largest Jewish populations per capita in Europe.
Prior to that, the Soviets targeted the Yiddish cultural revival in Belarus. Yiddish was once a language commonly heard spoken in major cities and towns, in addition to Belarusian, Polish, and Russian.
In his article “The Invisible Genocide: The Holocaust in Belarus,” Rudling wrote that no less than 800,000 Belarusian Jews perished in the Nazis’ efforts to conquer Europe.
After World War II, the Soviets undertook a significant urbanization project in Belarus, forcing the rural population to move to cities and learn Russian. This reshaped the linguistic makeup of Belarus.
“Former villagers brought their language with them, but it was not welcomed. Russian was the language of the state and power and of the comfortable urban life,” Belarusian poet and translator Julia Cimafiejeva said.
This led to a rise in the usage of “trasianka,” a mixture of Belarusian and Russian that is still commonly heard today and incorporates Russian vocabulary with Belarusian grammar and phonetics.
It is a similar linguistic phenomenon to “surzhyk” in Ukraine, which is a mix of Ukrainian and Russian.
During the post-war period, the Soviets employed subtle tactics to undermine the importance of the Belarusian language.
Scholar Lieanid Lyč wrote that in the late 1950s parents were allowed to petition for their children to be transferred from Belarusian- to Russian-language schools.
“The architects of such an anti-national language policy in the education field understood very well that if only the Russian language prevails in all higher and secondary educational institutions in Belarus, if all types of official records are conducted exclusively in it, then practically none of the parents will insist that their children were taught and brought up in their native Belarusian language,” he added.
This fostered a belief among many Belarusians that knowing Russian had more value.
By the start of the 21st century, some Belarusians worried that the Belarusian language would disappear from everyday usage.
However, Russia “could not completely destroy the roots of Belarusian national identity” and “despite ongoing pressure from Moscow, there has been a gradual expansion of the Belarusian language and culture,” Akudovich said.
Two Belarusian literary scenes
Julia Cimafiejeva and Alhierd Bacharevič, the husband and wife literary duo who currently live in exile, took part in the mass protests of 2020 and have explored what it means to be Belarusian in their bodies of work.
Cimafiejeva was born in a village along the Belarusian-Ukrainian border that was evacuated in 1986 after the nuclear fallout from the Chornobyl disaster. When she entered school in Homiel, the second-largest city in Belarus, “learning to speak Russian competently and correctly was a necessary, although not prescribed, condition to be accepted,” she wrote.
However, both noted that the Belarusian language could always be heard somewhere on the radio or TV, or read in newspapers and magazines, while they were growing up. Predominantly Belarusian-language schools also existed, although they were usually in villages.
Belarus has never been perceived in terms of strictly Belarusian- and Russian-speaking regions. The use of either language typically depended on your background and where you wanted to be in life, Cimafiejeva added.
Bacharevič echoed that sentiment, adding that the Belarusian language was never a “dead language,” but it remained, for a long time, deeply undervalued.
“We studied Belarusian language and literature at school, but most people did not understand why. After all, the Russian language dominated,” he said.
In the 2010s, the Belarusian literary scene of which Cimafiejeva and Bacharevič were an active part existed in two separate realities.
The Union of Writers, established in 2005, was backed by the Lukashenko regime. Its members enjoyed privileged access to state-controlled media outlets, such as TV channels and newspapers. They also received frequent invitations to appear at educational institutions.
Their language of choice was Russian. However, choosing to write in Russian has never been a definitive marker of being aligned with Lukashenko’s regime. Cimafiejeva, Bacharevič, and Mort have all worked in both Belarusian and Russian during their careers.
Additionally, Belarus’ most famous writer, the 2015 Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, writes predominantly in Russian. Most of her work has been published outside of Belarus, given her longstanding history of publicly opposing the Lukashenko regime.
Despite state-level support, those belonging to the Union of Writers “could not provide a bright image of the new future of the dictatorial state,” according to Cimafiejeva.
Meanwhile, independent authors existed “in a kind of cultural ghetto,” she added.
Since their work was exposed to a much smaller audience, this relative obscurity actually provided Belarusian writers with a certain degree of freedom for a period of time.
Belarus’ independent cultural sphere launched various initiatives during this period to cultivate interest in Belarusian language and literature, where writers had the chance not only to connect with their peers but engage with their readers.
Belarusian authors also faced the daunting task of competing against the massive influence of the Russian market. Cimafiejeva told the Kyiv Independent that the majority of the books sold in Belarus in 2019 were imported from Russia.
By contrast, Belarusian-language books, most of which were educational materials, were far less common.
Initially, the Belarusian cultural movement was not perceived as a threat by Lukashenko’s regime. However, following a series of protests against fraudulent elections over the years, that started to change. Literary magazines, publishing houses, and other cultural institutions soon found themselves under growing scrutiny and became targets for closure.
The writer’s association PEN Belarus told the Kyiv Independent that there is essentially a ban on the profession for those who speak out against the regime.
This is because the cultural and artistic initiatives undertaken by Belarus' independent cultural scene over the years influenced, to a certain extent, the protests and shaped the political consciousness of the people, according to Cimafiejeva.
“They helped their audience to feel the urge to self-identify themselves as Belarusians and be freer in a political sense,” she explained.
Repressive measures further escalated after the mass protests that began in 2020, which led to the exile of Cimafiejeva, Bacharevič, and countless others.
According to PEN Belarus, there is “permanent discrimination on the basis of the Belarusian language” given that it is associated with opponents of the regime.
“Not only do we live in exile; Belarusian publishers also live in exile, our readers live in exile, a lot of people have left Belarus and for the last few years we all try to survive and develop our culture in these difficult conditions,” Bacharevič said.
In 2022, Bacharevič’s novel “Dogs of Europe” was banned by the Belarusian authorities as “extremist literature.” It’s an expansive novel with several interweaving storylines that unfold over several decades. Set in a dystopian world, it depicts a reality where Russia has taken over Belarus and several other countries to become a dictatorial superstate.
Bacharevič wrote on Facebook in July that he’d learned Belarusian authorities planned to plow over confiscated copies of the book with tractors.
His novel “The Last Book by Mr. A” was also banned in 2023, he said in a recent interview. Merely possessing a copy of these books in Belarus can now land an individual in trouble.
Meanwhile, PEN Belarus told the Kyiv Independent that there are 132 members of Belarus’ cultural sphere currently being held in Lukashenko’s prisons, which amounts to an estimated nine percent of all political prisoners in the country officially registered by Viasna human rights group.
However, Lukashenko’s crackdown has targeted not only Belarus’ literary sphere but the artistic sphere as well. People from all walks of life in Belarus face imprisonment, torture, and murder for daring to want to live in a democratic country.
The renowned artist Ales Pushkin died from “unclear circumstances” in prison on July 11. He was arrested on politically motivated charges in 2021 after the Belarusian authorities claimed one of his paintings “rehabilitated and justified Nazism.”
In 1999, Pushkin famously marked the five-year anniversary of Lukashenko’s ascent to power by dumping a red wheelbarrow full of manure at the main entrance of the Presidential Office in Minsk, placing a photo of Lukashenko on top of the manure, and piercing it with a pitchfork.
He also flew the historic white-red-white flag over his home and said back in the 90s that Lukashenko did nothing good for Belarus and its people.
“Ales was an incredibly talented, provocative, and courageous artist – and a good man,” Bacharevič wrote.
“He will remain an artist and a person who was killed in prison, killed by this government. He was killed for language, talent, and bravery – for being Belarusian,” Bacharevič said, adding that “this murder cannot be forgiven.”
An ongoing cultural revival
Despite increasing attacks on those who dare to speak the language, an increasing number of Belarusians are writing in Belarusian, speaking it, reading it, and realizing why they need it.
This is critical given that there is no state-level support for the Belarusian language and Lukashenko’s regime is destroying Belarusian culture, PEN Belarus told the Kyiv Independent.
Cimafiejeva started using Belarusian more frequently back in 2006. Like many other Belarusians, it was a conscious decision made in the climate of protests against election fraud.
She also started working for Belarusian-language independent media and entered an educational institution that taught mostly in Belarusian.
“I had a quite wide circle of people speaking Belarusian, but it was a learned language for them all,” she said, given the prevalence of speaking Russian, especially in Belarus’ major cities.
Only in the past 20 years have more children born in cities been raised to speak Belarusian as their native language, according to Cimafiejeva.
“I’ve become more optimistic about the fate of the Belarusian language, especially if you compare today’s situation with the situation we had in the 1980s or even the 1990s,” she said.
Although Belarusian cultural initiatives lack state support, and much of their work is being done in exile, they are dedicated enthusiasts who believe in what they are doing and are trying to spread it to wider audiences.
Embracing the Belarusian language and culture can also be a means of comfort when processing the impact of having lived through a failed revolution, being faced with exile, and witnessing the outbreak of Russia’s genocidal war in neighboring Ukraine, of which the Lukashenko regime is an unofficial participant.
“People are seeking clarity in ideas and in language, which is to say in literature, and in the language of the arts in general. Emotions are intense and it’s music and visual arts that can reflect that intensity without putting on labels, without naming. So, in these periods of crisis, the demand for art is high,” Mort said.
Likewise, Bacharevič explained that a lot of Belarusians realized after 2020 that the system they lived in “was built on lies and violence.”
“In 2020, these people started reading more Belarusian literature because they need answers to their painful questions: who we are, how this (political) disaster became possible, what our past is, and where we are going now,” he said.
Despite Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine being one of the factors that have influenced many Belarusians to establish closer ties with the Belarusian language and culture, not all Belarusians are ready to cut the Russian language out of their lives completely.
Belarus has never been a monolingual state, and Cimafiejeva does not expect Belarusian to be the only language spoken in the country.
“Although I do want to see a better future for it,” she added.
Previously, Bacharevič translated many of his novels into Russian himself. He is of the belief that knowing many different languages is always beneficial, but he still considers himself first and foremost a Belarusian speaker.
“I think in Belarusian and dream in Belarusian,” he said. “The Russian language is our colonial heritage. I have not forgotten it, but I rarely speak it, mostly when I speak with Russians.”
Mort said she doesn’t consider the Russian language itself a problem but rather those who promote the destructive ideology of the Russian regime.
Her main issue with the Russian language has always been that it doesn’t allow her to express herself as freely as the Belarusian language does and that it has denied Belarusians a sense of pre-Russian history and agency.
“The Russian language doesn’t understand the Belarusian countryside,” she said.As NATO’s anticipated 2023 Vilnius Summit makes headlines, the alliance’s members urge Minsk to end its complicity in Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine. Meanwhile, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda urges NATO to bolster its eastern flank, claiming Belarus is “no longer independent’ but rat…
Note from the author:
Hi, this is Kate Tsurkan, thanks for reading this article. Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, there’s been a lot of talk about Ukraine’s cultural revival. However, Belarusians and people from other neighboring countries are reckoning with years of Russian colonialism as well. Culture has taken on an even more important meaning during wartime and if you like reading about this sort of thing, p
What consequences does the destruction of Kakhovka dam by Russians has for people, nature and economy? How to quantify these consequences? How to bring Russia to responsibility for the ecocide? This article provides some ideas.
UN Secretary General Guterres called Russia’s destruction of the Kakhovka Dam a “monumental humanitarian, economic and ecological catastrophe in the Kherson region of Ukraine.” President Volodymyr Zelensky said that “Russia needs to bear full responsibility for the ecocide it caused through the Kakhovka dam destruction”.
Russia has willfully and brazenly violated all the norms of the civilized world, engaging in the most heinous conduct against Ukraine’s civilian population and its environment. In Ukraine, environmental liability for ecocide exists as a criminal responsibility – imprisonment for a term of eight to fifteen years, for “[M]ass destruction of flora or fauna, poisoning of the atmosphere or water resources, as well as other actions that may cause an environmental catastrophe” (Article 441 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).
If there was ever a clear case for ecocide, the demolition of Kakhovka dam by Russian forces stands as the defining example. Will Russia be held responsible for that?
Currently, the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court is limited to four of the most serious classes of war crimes that distress the international community: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. Ecocide would be the fifth serious crime. In 2021, an international expert panel of lawyers shared its proposal for a fifth crime of ecocide under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). They defined ecocide as “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts”.
Russian responsibility for intentionally destroying the dam has been established through a thorough analysis of the structural engineering plans of the Kakhovka dam, and scrutinizing seismic and satellite data related to the explosions. Only the Russian military, which controls the Kakhovka dam and had full access to the inner subterranean gallery of the power plant, could have engineered such an explosive rupture of the dam.
UN practice of environmental damage compensation
Destroying the environment is a war crime, as established by the United Nations International Law Commission in 2022. In every accepted definition, the ‘environment’ consists of the engineered human environment (managed forests, reservoirs and agricultural systems) and man-made infrastructure designed to reduce pollution, as well as natural ecosystems that provide services to both humans and nature. In estimating Ukraine’s post-war environmental damage, both Ukraine and Western donors and financial institutions will have difficulty sorting through acceptable methods for estimating and monetizing environmental damages as part of a compensation and reparations mechanism.
And that’s the crux of the matter. Before reparations can be appraised, the extent of environmental damage must be accurately assessed, and later valued in monetary terms. What is the value of an endangered species? How much is a hectare of destroyed marsh worth? What will it cost to restore a degraded wetland? What is the economic value of the full suite of ecosystem services that will be lost, possibly forever, because of the Kakhovka dam demolition? What are the full costs of environmental degradation of hundreds of thousands of hectares caused by destructive Russian military operations?
First, the various types of environmental damage must be defined, measured and evaluated. A precedent was set during the Iraq/Kuwait war in 1991, when Security Council resolution 687 (1991) stated that Iraq is “liable under international law for any direct loss, damage, including environmental damage and the depletion of natural resources … as a result of Iraq’s unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait”. Based on that resolution, the UN Compensation Commission (UNCC) found that losses to the natural environment as a result of war crimes, even those without a market value, are compensable, as were short-term ecological losses, awarding Kuwait $3 billion for its environmental losses, and $48 billion for other health and related economic losses.
How to monitor environmental damage on the ground?
Monitoring and measuring environmental damages in a war zone is extremely difficult and dangerous, and manpower and equipment are scarce. But a good deal of monitoring can be conducted indirectly, by the extensive satellite monitoring systems of both the U.S. and Europe, many of which focus on changes in environmental variables. E.g. NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS), has a family of satellites that focus on measuring land use, soil moisture, vegetative cover, agricultural crop production, forest growth and associated diseases and water quality.
Most importantly, these satellite systems can provide comparisons of the state of the environment ‘before, during and after’ the war – in other words, the very important time series profile of changes in key environmental variables that can be used to assess damages. They can be used to confirm whatever ‘ground truth’ monitoring may be available, which would be used to calibrate the satellite data and, using artificial intelligence, fill in gaps where there is no data available. Satellites and GIS technologies are already being used to assess infrastructure damage and consequences of forest fires and flash floods in Ukraine. These satellite systems, together with well-developed Ukrainian GIS technologies, will be invaluable assets for the ultimate assessment of ecological damage and reparations.
Socioeconomic consequences of Kakhovka dam destruction
The evidence of ecocide is clear in the case of the Kakhovka dam demolition, and the damages are on par with the more disaggregated but cumulatively damaging environmental destruction across the broad combat zone in Ukraine, over a span of 500 days of Russian military ruination. Several weeks after the Kakhovka deluge, the waters have receded, leaving behind an ecological wasteland of trash, toxic pollutants, decomposing fish and remains of many other species, throughout the length of the affected river – from upstream at the tail-end of 2,000 square kilometers empty reservoir, to downstream at the mouth of the Dnipro River estuary at Ochakiv, a distance of approximately 200 km from the dam. Debris and dead fish have also littered the shoreline of the northern Black Sea, turning Odesa shoreline into a ‘garbage dump and animal cemetery’.
Khakovka reservoir stored 18.2 cubic km of water, which is roughly one-third of the total average annual volume that flows down the Dnipro River (54 cubic km). The reservoir covers a total area of 2,155 km2 (832 sq mi) and is 240 km (150 mi) long and up to 23 km (14 mi) wide. The dam itself is 30 m high [98 ft]. Its hydroelectric capacity is 351 MW, a small fraction of Ukraine’s total hydroelectric power production, which accounts for only 5% of Ukraine’s energy needs. During the Russian occupation of the dam, power from the Kakhovka HPP was cut off from the main grid.
The abrupt release of water from behind the demolished Kakhovka Dam unleashed a surging wall of water which reached a peak of 5.6m (18.5 ft) in Kherson on June 8th, that swept through the river valley below the dam, all the way to the Black Sea, a distance of over 200 km (125 mi). Since the breach occurred in the early morning hours, at approximately 3 am, on June 6th, there was no warning for the over 80 unsuspecting towns and villages below the dam that were flooded on the right bank of the river. Settlements in the lower left bank, currently occupied by Russians, suffered even more since occupants were not provided any help and Russians were shelling Ukrainian teams who tried to save people from the left bank.
The ecocide resulting from the dam disaster has far too many dimensions to tally properly. The commonly used phrase ‘adverse impacts’ is much too insipid a term to describe the horrendous economic, humanitarian and environmental consequences of this singular monstrous war crime. There are several notable categories of serious and longer lasting environmental damage that collectively comprise the ecocide caused by Kakhovka dam destruction: loss of irrigation water for farms and landscape desiccation; loss of water supply and sanitation (WSS) services for towns and other settlements; health concerns related to cholera and other pollution-related diseases. But most of all, massive habitat losses; long-term ecosystem degradation and reduction of numerous aquatic species and biodiversity, not only in the territories of the natural reserves of the immediate riverine/estuarine ecosystem, but in the much broader areas connected to those ecosystems.
The most important function of the reservoir was that it served as the main supply of drinking and irrigation water to much of the Kherson Oblast and Crimea. Water from the reservoir flowed through several main canals and was further distributed through 12,000 km of irrigation canals and ditches, irrigating nearly 600,000 hectares, 90% of which are now in the Russian-occupied zone.
According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Agriculture, the destruction of the dam will leave 584,000 hectares (1,440,000 acres) of land without irrigation, turning them into “deserts”. At its peak, during the Soviet era, irrigation sustained over 2 million hectares in this region, but neglect and poor maintenance degraded the system considerably, leading to a World Bank investment plan to upgrade the system in 2015. It will take a decade to reconstruct the dam and cost over $1 billion, should such an action be decided in the future.
The death toll has risen to 52 as a consequence of the floodwater, with Russian officials saying 35 people had died in Moscow-controlled left-bank areas and Ukraine’s interior ministry saying 17 had died and 31 were missing on the right bank of the river. More than 11,000 have been evacuated on both sides. Moscow has rejected United Nations’ offers to help people in Russian-occupied areas affected by flooding from the destroyed dam. Moreover, when Ukrainians tried to evacuate people from the left bank, Russians shelled them.
Public health is the number one priority. Typically associated with the aftermath of such floods, is the transmission of communicable waterborne diseases like typhoid, cholera, leptospirosis and hepatitis A. Ukrainian officials are preparing for such outbreaks, but can do little for the people in the Russia-occupied zone of the left bank of the Dnipro River. The entire downstream section of the river is seriously polluted, and dangerous for people and the biota within, according to Victor Liashko, Ukrainian Minister of Health.
Kakhovka reservoir provided drinking water for more than 700,000 people in southern Ukraine. Cities on the Dnieper River, including Kherson, Nikopol, Marhanets and Pokrov, are now short of WSS, according to the United Nations. Another 250,000 people in rural Kherson oblast depend on groundwater, which is of poor quality, with elevated concentrations of chlorides and minerals. The international standard for chlorides (representing salinity) is 50-250 parts per million (ppm), while the total dissolved solids (TDS) standard is a maximum of 500 ppm. 37% of the groundwater wells in Kherson oblast fail these standards, with chlorides well above 500 ppm, and TDS > 1000 ppm.
Ecological Consequences of the dam destruction
Though occupying less than 6 percent of Europe’s area, Ukraine possesses 35 percent of Europe’s biodiversity, making it the most biodiverse nation in Europe. The Kakhovka environmental catastrophe comes on top of 500 days of Russian military destruction and persistent degradation of Ukraine’s environmental resources – its rivers, meadows, marshes, wetlands, forests, farms, and state parks and protected natural reserves.
Ecological habitats are the foundations for a rich array of species diversity. Degraded or destroyed habitats result in a large reduction in the number of species, decreasing biodiversity, and further endangering threatened species. The Kakhovka Reservoir was habitat to at least 43 fish species, 20 of which have commercial importance.
Within the territory affected by the ecological catastrophe exist 38 rare habitat types protected under the Bern Convention, which have been identified and protected as part of the European Emerald Network. Above the Kakhovka HPP dam at least 11 protected areas will be affected by desiccation, totaling over 250,000 hectares.
Kakhovka reservoir on June 15th, 9 days after destruction of the dam. Source: Ukrinform
The benthic [bottom] habitat in the reservoir and river downstream is at the base of the reservoir and riverine food chain, with a wide range of mollusks, mussels, worms and other flora and fauna that live in the muddy bottom layers. That food base has been mostly destroyed in the 2,000 square kilometer reservoir. Spring and summer is the usual period for fish spawning, bird nesting and feeding and resting areas for large flocks of migratory waterfowl. Several lifecycles of countless species are dependent on the Dnipro River estuary. River and reservoir ecosystems will be drastically modified and depleted.
Ukraine is in the center of an important migratory bird flyway, stretching from Central Asia to the Middle East. The scale of the avian movement is awesome with over 2 billion birds, 2.5 million ducks and two million raptors migrating from their breeding grounds in Europe, Siberia and central Asia to winter in tropical Africa. The war has disrupted this flyway for many migratory species that nest, rest and feed in the agricultural fields, irrigation canals, marshes, rivers and lakes of Ukraine. Recently, a survey of migratory birds in Kashmir showed significant declines in various species, attributing them to the war in Ukraine. The long conflict coupled with the Kakhovka dam catastrophe threatens not only Ukraine’s diverse bird populations but also biodiversity in general, including a significant number of rare and globally vulnerable bird species.
A number of very important habitats at the estuarine mouth of the Dnipro River protected under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance are seriously degraded and/or severely polluted, including the Black Sea Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO biosphere reserve; the Kinburn Spit Regional Landscape Park; and numerous smaller sites.
The vast volume of fresh water has definitely disturbed the balance between the brackish water of the Dnipro River estuary and nearshore, and that of the Black Sea, greatly diluting the surface waters whose salinity is normally about 15 parts per thousand (for comparison, ocean water is 35ppt). The reservoir water swept away with it agricultural fertilizers and pesticides, which will create a hypoxic dead zone, similar to the one occurring every summer at the Mississippi delta. This will further extend the period of adverse environmental conditions for the flora and fauna of the nearshore Black Sea, particularly for migratory fish and bird species dependent on the Dnipro River marshes as resting and feeding areas.
An additional potential problem is that radionuclides from the Chornobyl nuclear accident that have been buried in the sediment layers of Kakhovka reservoir for the past three decades have been flushed out, resuspended and carried downstream and redeposited in the estuarine marshes. There is considerable evidence that aquatic plants absorb these radionuclides, and their concentrations are magnified as they pass up the food chain through a process called biomagnification.
The condition of the benthos is crucial not only for the riverine food chain, but also for achieving the desired “good” ecological status of all water bodies in the Kakhovka reservoir and downstream, which Ukraine must achieve under the transposed EU Water Framework Directive. Obviously, after the dam is blown up and the reservoir disappears, achieving “good” status will be much more difficult and expensive.
How to evaluate ecological damage?
How expensive? This should be determined by special programs of measures to restore the environment of the areas affected by the Kakhovka dam explosion, which are currently being actively discussed by the Ministry of Environment and its subordinate agencies and services. This raises many questions, the answers to which will largely determine the amount of money and effort required for environmental restoration. Of course, funding and resources are currently very limited.
For example, methods for protected areas stipulate that the condition must be restored to its ‘natural state’, although it is unclear on what basis. It is impossible to restore ecosystems to their pristine natural state when they have been altered for centuries by human activities. The UN Compensation Commission (UNCC) says that restoration means actions aimed at returning damaged natural resources or services to their ‘basic state’ – i.e., the state of natural resources and ecosystem services that would have existed if the incident had not occurred.
As for the restoration of water resources outside the protected areas, existing methods for water resources do not address restoration at all (although the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) recognized by Ukraine provides for the environmental remediation liability of the state!). These methods measure damage to water resources through the amount of eco-taxes and fees that were lost rather than through the funds needed for restoration.
It is not clear how these discrepancies will affect the calculation of the costs of environmental restoration. Ukraine’s Ministry of Environment considers different approaches to the proper accounting of Ukraine’s post-war environmental damage.
Calculating the Compensation for Ecocide
How does one put a price tag on the destruction of habitat, biodiversity, endangered species or nature itself? Ecosystems are like factories – they are physical assets that provide services. Damage assessment principles and methods for the environment and ecosystems as the basis for financial compensation for war damages are equivalent to those for private property, commercial enterprises and public infrastructure.
For example, compensation should include the valuation of all components of assets (i.e. species, habitat) and company (ecosystem) value that were negatively affected by the war, directly or indirectly. The International Valuation Standards (IVS 2022) have long been applied globally to determine asset and company value within myriad compensation adjudications. There are comparable valuation standards and methods for the environment, ecosystems and valued ecological resources developed by the United Nations, European Union, USAID and the U.S. National Strategy for Natural Capital Accounting.
A comprehensive study on the valuation of ecosystem services was conducted in 2020 by the U.K. Dept of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It covered over 25 typical services provided by habitats and ecosystems, ranging from food, genetic resources, biodiversity, climate regulation to esthetic experiences and hunting. And it covered a wide range of ecosystems, from open ocean, coral reefs to mangrove forests, marshes and freshwater wetlands. The mean value of the suite of ecosystem services for all ecosystem types was computed as $3500/ha/yr [in 2020 dollars]. The figures ranged from a high of $119,000/ha/yr for tropical forests to $1600 for grasslands. Figures that more closely represent Ukraine’s ecosystems were inland and coastal wetlands, $49,000; cultivated areas, $8,000 and rivers and lakes, $20,700/ha/yr.
Another way of valuing the ecological services that habitats provide is to look at restoration costs in Europe and the U.S. For example, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers spent $710M for aquatic restoration projects in 2022. The agency restored, improved or protected 108,000 acres (44,000 hectares) in 2019, and 115,000 acres (46,500 ha) in 2021. This translates, on average, to approximately $13,000/ha of restoration costs.
The U.S. Congress passed numerous ecosystem restoration-related provisions in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA; P.L. 117-58), which was signed into law on November 15, 2021. The IIJA contains numerous provisions that authorized and funded federal ecosystem restoration activities. Some provisions directly addressed ecosystems or components of an ecosystem (e.g., actions to remove in-stream barriers); other provisions addressed ecosystem restoration indirectly (e.g., activities to restore landscapes after energy or mineral extraction). Collectively, these programs, distributed among several agencies, totaled $13.5 billion to be spent during the period 2023-2026.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Environment has developed its own restoration plan for monitoring and measuring the damage done by the Kakhovka dam disaster. The plan includes the resources to be monitored and the agencies and entities responsible for collecting the data, and providing the analysis. Unfortunately, funding is lacking to fully initiate this project at the present time.
“Après moi, le déluge” is a phrase uttered by Louis XV, expressing his indifference to the plight of his subjects after his death, knowing that he ruined the nation economically, thereby hastening the French Revolution. Given Putin’s remorseless scorched earth tactics against Ukraine’s civilian population during the past 500 days of war, the destruction of Kakhovka HPP [Hydropower Plant] is consistent with Putin’s callous indifference to the many war crimes and the flood catastrophe that he unleashed on Ukraine. Only a tactical nuclear explosion could be more catastrophic in its consequences. Maybe that was the intent – Putin’s signal for what may happen ‘apres le deluge’ – perhaps a terrorist attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant?
Editor’s Note: The Kyiv Independent is exclusively re-publishing an interview with Yuliya Kovaliv prepared by Forum for Ukrainian Studies, a research publication for experts, practitioners, and academics to discuss, explore, reflect upon, develop, and transform international understanding of contemporary affairs in Ukraine. This platform is run by the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) of the University of Alberta (Edmonton, Canada).
Yuliya Kovaliv is Ukraine’s Ambassador to Canada. She arrived to Ottawa on March 29, 2022.
CIUS: Earlier this year, in your presentation at Carleton University you mentioned global repercussions that stem from the war: growing food insecurity, erosion of international order, and challenges to nuclear safety. How does the situation look today? Have new repercussions emerged?
Ambassador Yuliya Kovaliv: It is a crucial question. Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine revealed a lot of disturbing and “engineered” developments in the world. Not only did Ukraine and its resilience become visible and acknowledged, many areas were noticed where global action and improvement are needed. Moreover, a handful of international institutions established after the Second World War to preserve peace, work on global prosperity, and address climate change are no longer as functional as planned. The illegal Russian invasion showed the weaknesses and gaps in the international order that we will all need to address—food security and nuclear safety being only some of them.
Many dimensions of this war have been shown to the world and have become a global concern, but Russia has not stopped. This brings all of us to face new challenges. Therefore, the need remains crucial for strong support of Ukraine and quicker decisions on supplies of weaponry.Ukraine needs to win this war. Its victory will be not only of one country against Russian occupiers but of all the democratic world against tyranny. Democracy is something that Ukraine shares with Canada and many other countries. And democracy is being seriously challenged now in the global context. The victory of Ukraine will help to sustain democracy.
Read the rest of the interview here.
This is our nuclear crisis issue: how it feels in Ukraine to be living under a potential nuclear emergency on a daily basis. Below, in section three, we discuss how we’re personally preparing and the gear we’re using. THANK YOU for being a paid subscriber and helping us pay for it — and if you’re not, what are you waiting for?
Volodymyr Anfimov says he isn’t that worried about a nuclear catastrophe at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), about 275 miles southeast of Kyiv.
Anfimov, 47, has to keep a cool head if he is to serve his city in the event of radiation exposure. He inherited his understanding of nuclear risks from his dad, who was based in the most famous nuclear plant of them all.
“My father worked in the Chernobyl Plant Station,” said Anfimov, a spokesperson for Kyiv’s Department of Environmental Protection and Adaptation to Climate Change. “He is a scientist. And I ask him, ‘Tell me, please. Should we be worried about it?’ He's a specialist in nuclear disasters and said, ‘Don't worry. For Kyiv, it should be okay.’ But of course, it would be a national disaster, and it’s on the back of our minds.”
Ukraine’s recent history is inseparable from the specter of nuclear disaster. The Chernobyl catastrophe of 1986, which rendered about 1,000 square miles uninhabitable, still looms large in the nation’s collective memory. Reports that the Russian army may have mined some portions of the ZNPP have renewed fears of a similar catastrophe.
Despite these worries, Anfimov insists Kyiv is prepared. His department manages seven weather monitoring stations across the city that continuously record dust and pollutants. “It analyzes 15 different pollution substances in the air,” he said.
In addition, radiation detectors were installed in the seven monitoring stations in 2022, shortly after the start of Russia's full-scale invasion. Data from these detectors is sent to a central database and made accessible to Kyiv's residents through an app called Kyiv Digital. If any abnormality is detected, the Department of Civil Safety springs into action.
For Anfimov, this is more than just a job—it’s personal. He has many friends in Zaporizhzhia with small children and worries about their safety.
Despite the constant stress, Anfimov encourages optimism: “Every time you hear an air raid siren, it means a rocket or drone is approaching your city. And you could be the next target. Yet, you hope everything will be fine... You have to be an optimist, and you have to think the future will be better just to function.”The image shows Kyiv’s radiation levels. On Friday night, for example, the city showed that levels were normal and safe across the city. If the green boxes were yellow or red, however, that’s a problem.
Since the war, the department has been on constant watch. Their radiation monitors were installed because of concerns about Chernobyl and then Zaporizhzhia during the ongoing invasion. In the first weeks of the war, the Russians captured Chernobyl, which is still a power plant, though in the process of being decommissioned.
“The installation of these radiation monitoring stations was in response to interest from Kyivans,” said Anfimov’s colleague, Volodymyr Dundar, deputy director of the department. “Because… the initial stage [of the invasion included] the occupation of the Chernobyl power plant. And here in Kyiv, we have a lot of rumors and speculation about what's going on.
“We put these radiation monitoring stations in and gave access to Kyivians so they can check in one click to see that everything is okay.”
The two men are obviously proud of the technology and spend several minutes showing me the cramped interior and pointing out the various data points the stations collect, in addition to the radiation monitors.
Dust, pollution, wind speed, temperature. It’s a weather geek’s dream. Anfimov bragged that the department would soon be able to make predictions of air quality. But some things are impossible to forecast.
“It’s pretty strange that we are discussing the explosion of the nuclear plant as an option in the war,” he said. “It’s really weird that in the 21st century, someone can even think about it. But as we can see, Russians don’t follow any rules of war. They just ignore them. That’s why we should be ready for it. “
And, he added: “Kyiv is ready.”
The Counteroffensive with Tim Mak is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber!
Good morning to readers, Kyiv remains in Ukrainian hands.
Tim is back in-country today, taking back over from the talented Chris Allbritton. Thank you Chris!
It is the 501st day of what was supposed to be a three-day Russian operation to subjugate Ukraine, and the counteroffensive continues to repel the Russian military along multiple fronts. The heaviest fighting in the last few days has been around Bakhmut.
Zelenskyy returned from Turkey yesterday, along with five Ukrainian commanders from the Azovstal steelworks siege. The commanders were taken to Turkey as part of a prisoner exchange with Russia, and were originally not allowed back in Ukraine until the war was over.
Zelenskyy and the commanders stood in front of a crowd in Lviv last night and pledged that they would have a say in future battles.Zelenskyy speaks during the return of commanders of Ukrainian forces who held Mariupol's resistance in the city's Azovstal steel plant. (Photo by YURIY DYACHYSHYN/AFP via Getty Images)
The return of these soldiers apparently blindsided the Russians: A Kremlin spokesperson accused both Turkey and Ukraine of breaking the deal that had been negotiated, and said that Moscow had not been informed.
Despite this apparent outrage, the Kremlin appears to have some good news on the political stability front… for the time being:
But as we saw with the Prigozhin revolt, internal dissent is rising due to the continuation of the war. And it’s about to get more challenging for Russians in the trenches.U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan discusses the U.S. decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine during a White House press briefing.
The United States has just agreed to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine as part of a new military aid package. These shells are useful because they can be used to clear larger areas of defensive fortifications.
But they’re also controversial because the bomblets inside are dispersed over a large area, and some of them don’t explode as intended on impact. The unexploded bomblets then pose a risk to civilians who may accidentally set them off in the future.
Ukraine has also been concerned for months that it was spending more of its shells in ongoing fighting than it could sustain. And the U.S. has been sending its own 155mm stockpiles – the non-cluster munitions version – to help with the shortage, but were beginning to run out due to the incredible rate of fire.
The solution? Sending U.S. 155mm cluster shells, which the Biden administration had hesitated to provide until now.155mm shells being produced at the Scranton Army Ammunition Plant in Pennsylvania earlier this year. Forty shells at a time are packed into trays that are fed into a long oven for a four-hour heat-treating process. About every 45 minutes, the oven door opens and a tray of glowing red shells emerges. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
While Ukraine and the U.S. are not part of the over 100 countries that have banned cluster munitions, America has been concerned about being out of step with its allies. The dud rate – the percentage of bomblets that don’t explode as intended – has been a major cause for concern in the White House. A recent congressional report states that the reported 2-5% dud rate for cluster munition bomblets is actually closer to 10-30%.
Oleksii Reznikov, the Minister of Defense for Ukraine, said that to assuage concerns, Ukraine would commit to:
Not using cluster munitions on Russian territory, only to liberate Ukrainian land
Not to use them in urban areas
Keep a record of where they were used
Prioritizing these areas for demining after liberation
Transparent reporting to allies
Greetings folks, William here.
It has been a tense few weeks as the threat of nuclear meltdown at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) has been the talk of the town(s), Telegram, and everything in between. The Ukrainians accused the Russians of mining a key building at the power plant, setting off serious concerns about an emergency.
But Ukrainian spymaster Major General Kyrylo Budanov said recently that the immediate danger at the plant was receding.
"Sorry, I can't tell you what happened recently but the fact is that the threat is decreasing… This means that at least we have all together, with joint efforts, somehow postponed a technogenic catastrophe," he said.This photograph taken from Ukrainian city of Nikopol on July 7, 2023, shows the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is under Russian control since the first days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine (Photo by ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images)
While the imminent danger of radiation contamination at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant seems to have subsided – for now — the ongoing threat still remains.
On Thursday we talked to Cheryl Rofer, a retired nuclear scientist who spent 30 years as a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory. She was a wealth of information on this topic and had much to say about what she calls the "misunderstood boogeyman," which is radiation.
As someone who has spent her life working around radiation, she is frustrated by the media's misunderstanding of it. "The six reactors at ZNPP are not at all like the Chernobyl reactor and cannot, CANNOT, have the same kind of accident," Rofer says.
According to her, Chernobyl did not have heavily reinforced concrete surrounding its reactors like the ZNPP does, nor did Chernobyl have stainless steel vessels to further contain them.
Rofer told me that we have a roughly 40% chance to get cancer in our lifetime, exposure to radiation in the event of a meltdown at ZNPP would barely change that value for the people of Ukraine. Once, after taking a radioactive medicine needed for a treatment of hers, she decided to calculate the exact percentage that the radioactive medicine would increase her cancer chances by. It went up only 1%, she exclaimed, laughing.
Even though Rofer said a cataclysmic event is unlikely, she believes the reason for the Ukrainian media emphasis on the ZNPP has been to rally the world's attention and discourage Russia from staging any provocation.
Here at The Counteroffensive we have worked out a series of operating procedures to follow in case a radiation contamination event happens. Our subscribers have graciously provided us with the necessary equipment needed to have a shot at surviving nuclear fallout (THANK YOU DOES NOT DO OUR GRATITUDE JUSTICE).
We have sets of hazmat suits, gas masks, and a Geiger counter — among other gear.
The standard CDC guidelines for radiation contamination and exposure are, in short, get inside, stay inside, and stay tuned.
Get inside. If a radiological event happens our team plans to decontaminate and then stay inside our apartment in Kyiv with the seams on our windows duct taped and jammed tight with spare clothes and sheets.
Stay inside. The CDC recommends staying inside for 24 hours to give time for the majority of radiation particles to settle. We have stocked water, emergency rations (MREs and Tim's ramen), and iodide tablets in the event we have to shelter in place.
Stay tuned. There's some uncertainty here. Will the internet and phone networks stay up? Will the power go out? To deal with the variables out of our control, we have a charged battery for our devices, as well as solar panels. For communications, we have a satellite phone.
So in the event of a nuclear meltdown at ZNPP we WILL be doing our best to be reporting; bar a total electrical blackout and failure of our equipment.
And it’s thanks to you, our readers, that we have the gear we need to be prepared.
Today's Cat O' Conflict belongs to our colleague Ross. Her name is Bulka and greatly dislikes strangers.
Stay safe out there.
The Counteroffensive Team
Ukraine’s counteroffensive is still in its early stages but concerns are already mounting that Russia may eventually resort to desperate measures in order to stave off defeat. At present, fears are focused primarily on Vladimir Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling, which is expected to escalate as the counteroffensive unfolds.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has recently warned that Moscow may intend to blow up the Russian-occupied Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant in southern Ukraine. Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden acknowledged on June 19 that the threat of Putin using nuclear weapons is “real.” Days later, Ukrainian military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov accused Russia of mining the cooling pond used to control temperatures at the Zaporizhia plant’s reactors. Clearly, an occupied nuclear plant that is blown up becomes a nuclear weapon.
Preventing this from happening should be an international priority. The fallout from a detonation at the plant would spread across many countries in a matter of hours. In addition to Ukraine itself, Belarus, Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Russia would all be at serious risk, according to analysis by Ukraine’s Hydrometerological Institute.
Russia has occupied Ukraine’s Zaporizhia plant since the first weeks of the invasion. Last summer, the Kremlin allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to monitor its operational safety remotely. But in April 2023, IAEA officials began warning of growing risks and calling for additional measures to protect the plant. With Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive now underway, alarm is mounting.
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Zelenskyy’s claims that the Kremlin is planning to orchestrate a nuclear disaster in Ukraine are not at all far-fetched, given how Putin’s forces have been purposely laying waste to the country for the past sixteen months. The invading Russian army has planted landmines across an area the size of Switzerland, displaced more than ten million people, and destroyed dozens of Ukrainian towns and cities. Countless residential apartment buildings, schools, and hospitals have been reduced to ruins. A comprehensive and methodical nationwide bombing campaign has targeted the country’s civilian infrastructure.
In recent weeks, Russia is suspected of having blown up the Khakovka dam in southern Ukraine, causing an ecological catastrophe. However, even this unprecedented act of ecocide failed to stop Ukraine’s counteroffensive. With Russia’s military predicament expected to become increasingly grim in the weeks and months ahead, the likelihood of further extreme measures will grow. “They constantly need destabilization here. They want the world to put pressure on Ukraine to stop the war,” commented Zelenskyy.
Putin has been making nuclear threats since the very first days of Russia’s full-scale invasion. During the initial stages of the war, he very publicly placed his nuclear forces on high alert. With the invasion in danger of unravelling in September 2022, he again hinted at a possible nuclear response while warning, “I’m not bluffing.”
Not everyone is convinced. Former Russian diplomat Boris Bondarev, who resigned after last year’s invasion, told Newsweek in early 2023: “today [Putin is] bluffing and we know that he has bluffed about nuclear threats. Ukrainians recovered some parts of their territory, and there was no nuclear retaliation. If you’re afraid of Putin using nukes, then you already lose the war against him and he wins.”
Others warn against possible complacency. The recent destruction of Kakhovka dam has caused many observers to reassess their earlier skepticism over Russia’s readiness to go nuclear in Ukraine. Putin has also crossed another red line by vowing to place nukes in Belarus. The Russian dictator is currently holding all Europeans hostage with the threat of a deadly explosion at the continent’s largest nuclear plant, and is moving nuclear weapons closer to the heart of Europe.
Eurasia Center events
</div> <div> <div> <div> <a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/securing-ukraines-future-in-nato-with-anders-fogh-rasmussen-and-andriy-yermak/"> </a><div><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/securing-ukraines-future-in-nato-with-anders-fogh-rasmussen-and-andriy-yermak/"> <span>Online Event</span> <span>Wed, June 21, 2023 • 11:30 am ET</span> </a></div><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/securing-ukraines-future-in-nato-with-anders-fogh-rasmussen-and-andriy-yermak/"> </a><h4><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/securing-ukraines-future-in-nato-with-anders-fogh-rasmussen-and-andriy-yermak/">Securing Ukraine’s future in NATO with Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Andriy Yermak</a></h4><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/securing-ukraines-future-in-nato-with-anders-fogh-rasmussen-and-andriy-yermak/"> </a><p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/securing-ukraines-future-in-nato-with-anders-fogh-rasmussen-and-andriy-yermak/">AN #ACFRONTPAGE EVENT – A conversation on Western efforts to establish security guarantees for Ukraine and strategies to prepare for a productive NATO Summit in July. </a></p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/securing-ukraines-future-in-nato-with-anders-fogh-rasmussen-and-andriy-yermak/"> </a> <div> <a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/issue/nato/">NATO</a> <a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/issue/security-defense/">Security & Defense</a> <a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/issue/security-partnerships/">Security Partnerships</a> <a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/region/ukraine/">Ukraine</a> </div> </div> <div> <a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/securing-ukraines-future-in-nato-with-anders-fogh-rasmussen-and-andriy-yermak/"> <img width="640" height="480" src="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/ACFP-WEB-Rasmussen-Yermak-1024x768.png" alt=""> </a> </div> </div> </div> <div> </div> </div>
The world must heed Ukraine’s warnings before it is too late. Zelenskyy first raised the alarm about the Kakhovka dam in October 2022 but the international community failed to react. Since the destruction of the dam, the relatively weak and ineffective international response has fuelled fears that Russia will read this as a green light to go further.
For now, most international attention appears to be focused on Putin’s placement of nukes in Belarus. “I absolutely believe that moving weapons to Belarus demands an unequivocal response from NATO,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said recently before meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Significantly, Russia’s decision to deploy nukes to Belarus even drew a critical response from Chinese officials, who renewed calls for de-escalation and reminded Russia that its leaders had reaffirmed their opposition to nuclear war at their March 2023 summit with China in Moscow.
Ultimately, there is no way of knowing whether Russia’s nuclear threats are genuine or not, but Western leaders cannot afford to let Putin’s nuclear blackmail tactics succeed. If the Russian dictator’s nuclear saber-rattling enables him to rescue the faltering invasion of Ukraine, he will do it again and others will follow. To prevent this nightmare scenario, the West must respond forcefully by escalating support for Ukraine militarily, diplomatically, and economically. The only sensible answer to Russia’s reckless nuclear intimidation is a heightened international commitment to Ukrainian victory.
In parallel to increased support for Ukraine, international watchdogs must be dispatched to monitor the situation at the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant and other Ukrainian infrastructure sites that Russia could potentially target. Strong pressure must also be placed on China and India to condemn Russia’s nuclear threats. The invasion of Ukraine has already transformed the international security climate; Putin must not be allowed to normalize nuclear blackmail.
Diane Francis is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, editor-at-large with the National Post in Canada, author of ten books, and author of a newsletter on America.
<div> <div> <div> <a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/beyond-the-counteroffensive-84-of-ukrainians-are-ready-for-a-long-war/"> </a><div><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/beyond-the-counteroffensive-84-of-ukrainians-are-ready-for-a-long-war/"> <img src="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/2023-06-11T000000Z_1445971206_MT1NURPHO00083XOTJ_RTRMADP_3_DEMONSTRATION-STOP-THE-ECOCIDE-IN-UKRAINE-IN-KRAKOW-POLAND-scaled-e1686611301861-500x350.jpg" alt="Putin’s nuclear threats will escalate as Ukraine’s counteroffensive unfolds"> </a></div><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/beyond-the-counteroffensive-84-of-ukrainians-are-ready-for-a-long-war/"> </a><div><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/beyond-the-counteroffensive-84-of-ukrainians-are-ready-for-a-long-war/"> </a><p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/beyond-the-counteroffensive-84-of-ukrainians-are-ready-for-a-long-war/"> <span>UkraineAlert</span> <span>Jun 12, 2023</span> </a></p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/beyond-the-counteroffensive-84-of-ukrainians-are-ready-for-a-long-war/"> </a><h4><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/beyond-the-counteroffensive-84-of-ukrainians-are-ready-for-a-long-war/">Beyond the counteroffensive: 84% of Ukrainians are ready for a long war</a></h4><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/beyond-the-counteroffensive-84-of-ukrainians-are-ready-for-a-long-war/"> </a><p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/beyond-the-counteroffensive-84-of-ukrainians-are-ready-for-a-long-war/"> <span>By</span> <span><span>Peter Dickinson</span></span> </a></p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/beyond-the-counteroffensive-84-of-ukrainians-are-ready-for-a-long-war/"> </a><div><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/beyond-the-counteroffensive-84-of-ukrainians-are-ready-for-a-long-war/"> </a><p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/beyond-the-counteroffensive-84-of-ukrainians-are-ready-for-a-long-war/">84% of Ukrainians reject any compromise with Russia and are ready for a long war if necessary in order to fully de-occupy their country. Most simply see no middle ground between genocide and national survival, writes Peter Dickinson. </a></p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/beyond-the-counteroffensive-84-of-ukrainians-are-ready-for-a-long-war/"> </a></div><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/beyond-the-counteroffensive-84-of-ukrainians-are-ready-for-a-long-war/"> </a></div><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/beyond-the-counteroffensive-84-of-ukrainians-are-ready-for-a-long-war/"> </a> <div> <div> <a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/issue/civil-society/">Civil Society</a> <a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/issue/conflict/">Conflict</a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div> <div> <a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-coming-counteroffensive-has-a-good-chance-of-succeeding/"> </a><div><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-coming-counteroffensive-has-a-good-chance-of-succeeding/"> <img src="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/2023-05-15T193602Z_1836713784_RC21Z0A9WGGT_RTRMADP_3_UKRAINE-CRISIS-DRILLS-scaled-e1684858641890-500x350.jpg" alt="Putin’s nuclear threats will escalate as Ukraine’s counteroffensive unfolds"> </a></div><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-coming-counteroffensive-has-a-good-chance-of-succeeding/"> </a><div><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-coming-counteroffensive-has-a-good-chance-of-succeeding/"> </a><p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-coming-counteroffensive-has-a-good-chance-of-succeeding/"> <span>UkraineAlert</span> <span>May 23, 2023</span> </a></p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-coming-counteroffensive-has-a-good-chance-of-succeeding/"> </a><h4><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-coming-counteroffensive-has-a-good-chance-of-succeeding/">Ukraine’s coming counteroffensive has a good chance of succeeding</a></h4><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-coming-counteroffensive-has-a-good-chance-of-succeeding/"> </a><p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-coming-counteroffensive-has-a-good-chance-of-succeeding/"> <span>By</span> <span><span>Richard D. Hooker, Jr.</span></span> </a></p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-coming-counteroffensive-has-a-good-chance-of-succeeding/"> </a><div><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-coming-counteroffensive-has-a-good-chance-of-succeeding/"> </a><p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-coming-counteroffensive-has-a-good-chance-of-succeeding/">Ukraine’s coming counteroffensive has a great chance of succeeding due to a number of factors including superior leadership, equipment upgrades, and strong morale, writes Richard D. Hooker, Jr.</a></p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-coming-counteroffensive-has-a-good-chance-of-succeeding/"> </a></div><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-coming-counteroffensive-has-a-good-chance-of-succeeding/"> </a></div><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-coming-counteroffensive-has-a-good-chance-of-succeeding/"> </a> <div> <div> <a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/issue/conflict/">Conflict</a> <a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/issue/defense-technologies/">Defense Technologies</a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div> <div> <a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-counteroffensive-will-likely-create-new-reintegration-challenges/"> </a><div><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-counteroffensive-will-likely-create-new-reintegration-challenges/"> <img src="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/2023-06-11T110145Z_787529404_RC2ZG1AZI82F_RTRMADP_3_UKRAINE-CRISIS-scaled-e1686526635722-500x350.jpg" alt="Putin’s nuclear threats will escalate as Ukraine’s counteroffensive unfolds"> </a></div><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-counteroffensive-will-likely-create-new-reintegration-challenges/"> </a><div><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-counteroffensive-will-likely-create-new-reintegration-challenges/"> </a><p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-counteroffensive-will-likely-create-new-reintegration-challenges/"> <span>UkraineAlert</span> <span>Jun 11, 2023</span> </a></p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-counteroffensive-will-likely-create-new-reintegration-challenges/"> </a><h4><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-counteroffensive-will-likely-create-new-reintegration-challenges/">Ukraine’s counteroffensive will likely create new reintegration challenges</a></h4><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-counteroffensive-will-likely-create-new-reintegration-challenges/"> </a><p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-counteroffensive-will-likely-create-new-reintegration-challenges/"> <span>By</span> <span><span>Lesia Dubenko</span></span> </a></p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-counteroffensive-will-likely-create-new-reintegration-challenges/"> </a><div><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-counteroffensive-will-likely-create-new-reintegration-challenges/"> </a><p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-counteroffensive-will-likely-create-new-reintegration-challenges/">If Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive is successful, Kyiv will be faced with the significant challenge of reintegrating communities that have lived under Russian occupation for extended periods, writes Lesia Dubenko.</a></p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-counteroffensive-will-likely-create-new-reintegration-challenges/"> </a></div><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-counteroffensive-will-likely-create-new-reintegration-challenges/"> </a></div><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraines-counteroffensive-will-likely-create-new-reintegration-challenges/"> </a> <div> <div> <a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/issue/civil-society/">Civil Society</a> <a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/issue/conflict/">Conflict</a> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div>
The views expressed in UkraineAlert are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Atlantic Council, its staff, or its supporters.
<div> <div> <a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/category/blogs/ukrainealert/"> <img src="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/silver-ringvee-hZvVWVhk3g-unsplash-500x350.jpg" alt="silver-ringvee-hZvVWVhk3g-unsplash-500x3"> </a> </div> <div> <a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/category/blogs/ukrainealert/"> </a><h4><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/category/blogs/ukrainealert/">Read more from UkraineAlert</a></h4><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/category/blogs/ukrainealert/"> </a><p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/category/blogs/ukrainealert/">UkraineAlert is a comprehensive online publication that provides regular news and analysis on developments in Ukraine’s politics, economy, civil society, and culture.</a></p><a href="https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/category/blogs/ukrainealert/"> </a> </div> </div>
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The post Putin’s nuclear threats will escalate as Ukraine’s counteroffensive unfolds appeared first on Atlantic Council.
Germany prods China on Ukraine war as leaders pledge to work together on climate - The Associated Press
Germany prods China on Ukraine war as leaders pledge to work together on climate The Associated Press
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has been the largest military conflict in Europe since World War II. The hostilities, in which hundreds of thousands of combatants, a significant amount of military equipment, and all types of conventional weapons are involved on both sides, continue on the territory of Ukraine, causing great damage to the state and its citizens. The environment also suffers from war: air, water and land resources, forests, protected areas, wildlife, and flora. The most notorious crime of the occupiers against the environment is the blow-up of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant on June 6, 2023, which has led to an environmental catastrophe in the South of Ukraine and can be qualified as an act of ecocide.
The estimated amount of damage caused to the environment during the full-scale war, according to the estimates of the State Environmental Inspectorate, is close to UAH 2 trillion. However, it is now very difficult to assess the true scale of Russian crimes because the hostilities continue, and part of the territory is under occupation. Obviously, this has already led to long-term negative consequences for the environmental situation in Ukraine and in the world. Overcoming the consequences will require enormous resources. This is a challenge that must be met not only by Ukraine, but also by the international community.
The Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security collected information about Russian crimes against the environment and key environmental problems caused by the war.
Hostilities are accompanied by fires and explosions, which leads to atmospheric pollution. Millions of tons of emissions and combustion products enter the air and accelerate climate change: in just one year of hostilities, 33 million tons of greenhouse gases were released into the atmosphere.
The full-scale war is accompanied by attempts by Russians to destroy Ukrainian ammunition depots, oil depots, oil refineries, and other chemical industry facilities.
Here are just a few examples: On February 27, 2022, a Russian ballistic missile hit an oil depot near Vasylkiv in Kyiv Oblast. During March-April of the same year, Russians attacked oil depots in Chernihiv, Zhytomyr, Kyiv, Lviv, Rivne, Dnipropetrovsk, Volyn, Luhansk, Poltava oblasts.
Together with carbon monoxide, during the combustion of petroleum products, benzopyrene, sulphur dioxide and trioxide, vanadium compounds, sodium salts, aldehydes, soot, etc., enter the atmosphere. All these compounds are highly toxic, they harm people, flora and fauna, pollute soils and reservoirs.
Capture of and damage to nuclear facilities
Russian invaders resort to nuclear terrorism: they strike at nuclear facilities, seize them, and use them as military bases, holding personnel hostage.
In the first days of the full-scale invasion, the enemy seized the Chornobyl nuclear power plant. On February 25, a sharp surge in radiation was recorded in the exclusion zone: its level rose 20 times. This was due to the Russian military’s disregard for radiation safety standards: they moved around the Chornobyl zone on heavy equipment, dug trenches, in particular in the Red Forest, raising radioactive dust into the atmosphere, and provoked several fires. The Chornobyl NPP has been under Russian control for more than a month. The occupiers killed nine and kidnapped five employees of the station, and took 169 captured soldiers of the National Guard who guarded the facility. In addition, the Russians damaged and stole hundreds of computers, software, 1,500 dosimetry devices and firefighting equipment. This caused damage to the security system of the Chornobyl NPP, the amount of damage exceeds USD 135 million.
In March 2022, the Russians seized the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Enerhodar and took its personnel hostage. The occupiers turned Europe’s largest nuclear power plant into a military base. They placed artillery and air defence systems on the territory of the nuclear power plant. Russian troops use the ZNPP as a “nuclear shield” to shell Marhanets and Nikopol from its territory, knowing that they will not be shelled in response. Weapons and ammunition are stored near reactors and containers with spent nuclear fuel, posing a threat of man-made disaster. Pressure on personnel and improper operation of ZNPP equipment also increase the risk of accidents due to the “human factor.” And after the blow-up of the Kakhovka HPP, mined earlier by them, the Russians increased the risks of disabling the cooling system of the ZNPP reactors, which could lead to catastrophic consequences.
During the battles for Kharkiv in spring and summer 2022, Russian troops targeted the Neutron Source nuclear facility on the territory of the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology several times. The installation itself was hit, with 37 fuel cells loaded. Its damage and destruction of nuclear material repositories could lead to a large-scale environmental disaster.
Mine contamination and soil destruction
Numerous artillery and missile and bomb strikes not only contaminate Ukrainian soils with debris and rocket fuel, but also damage their structure, forming deep tears.
About 174,000 square kilometres, almost a third of the territory of Ukraine, are potentially contaminated with explosive objects. The worst situation is in Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kyiv, Luhansk, Mykolaiv, Kharkiv, Kherson oblasts. About 470,000 hectares of agricultural land in Ukraine were subjected to mine contamination. This poses a threat to global food security.
The level of mine contamination in Ukraine is the largest in Europe, demining can take decades.
Pollution of reservoirs
Due to Russian aggression, the quality of Ukrainian water resources is depleting. Ammunition, oil products, the bodies of dead people and animals end up in the reservoirs, and the coasts are mined. The pollution of the waters of the Dnipro and the Black Sea was caused by the blow-up of the Kakhovka HPP; people’s homes, agricultural land, cemeteries, and cattle burial grounds were in the flood zone. Chemical fertilizers, fuel and lubricant materials and other pollutants, the bodies of dead people and corpses of animals got into the water. For decades, heavy metals and other harmful substances from the emissions of industrial enterprises of Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro accumulated in the bottom sediments of the reservoir. Contamination of freshwater during summer heat can cause water to bloom. The release of a large amount of river water threatens the temporary desalination of parts of the Black Sea, causing its flora and fauna to suffer.
Missile and bomb strikes on Ukrainian cities have caused dozens of damage to pipelines, pumping stations, and treatment facilities. This has led to the pollution of reservoirs, hundreds of thousands of people were left without access to safe water.
The scale of groundwater pollution will still have to be assessed in the future.
Destruction of forests and protected areas
As of the end of 2022, 3 million hectares of forest were destroyed and damaged as a result of the war — a third of the forest fund of Ukraine. According to environmentalists, its restoration may take at least 20 years.
160 objects of the Emerald Network, which is 2.9 million hectares of Europe’s environmental network, are under threat of destruction. A third of the national protected areas of Ukraine is affected by the war. 900 reserve territories are at risk. This is 1.2 million hectares, or more than a quarter of all protected areas of the country. The destruction of objects of the nature reserve fund (NRF) leads to the extinction of unique ecosystems, which are almost impossible to restore.
One of the biggest crimes of the occupiers against the NRF is the destruction of the ecosystem of the Kinburn Spit, which is washed by the waters of the Black Sea, the Dnipro-Bug estuary, and the Yahorlytska Bay. Relict forests, floodlands and swamplands, fresh and salt lakes, solonetzic soils, and salt marshes, natural spawning grounds, virgin areas of the sandy steppe are preserved here. 415 rare species of animals were found on the spit, 166 of which are listed in the Red Data Book of Ukraine, 47 rare species of plants, fungi, and lichens. In the first eight months of the occupation alone, according to the human rights organization Environment People Law, 30% of the Kinburn forests — 10,000 hectares — were affected by the fire.
The ecosystem of Snake Island, which has the status of a reserve of national importance, has suffered irreparable losses.
Death of animals
Hostilities, regular shelling and fires, flooding of territories lead to the mass death of wild and domestic animals. Dozens of species are facing extinction, and due to Russian aggression, there is nothing that environmentalists can do to help them.
Scientists record the negative impact of war on the populations of animals, birds, fish, amphibians. The population of dolphins in the Black Sea must have been affected the most. Ivan Rusiev, head of the research department of the Tuzlivski Lymany National Nature Park, reported the death of 50,000 species in autumn 2022 — 20% of the entire Black Sea population. The reason for the death of dolphins, according to the scientist, was a large number of ships’ sonars of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and explosions. This hypothesis is confirmed by the results of studies of Romanian ecologists: in half of the cases during necropsy in animals, damage to the bones of the inner ear was found.
The blow-up of the Kakhovka HPP has led to catastrophic consequences for biodiversity. Spawning grounds and habitat of more than 40 species of fish were destroyed. Due to the dehydration of the reservoir, not only fish died, but also other inhabitants of the reservoir: molluscs and various species of flies, which are the fodder base for fish, birds, amphibians, etc. Birds that nested on isolated islands, to which predators did not have land access, are in danger of extinction. We are talking about the Eurasian oystercatcher, squacco heron, spoonbill, and other rare species.
The rapid flooding of the territory downstream of the Dnipro left no chance of survival for local mammals, reptiles, insects, colonies of most bird species. Water has destroyed up to 70% of the world population of Nordmann’s birch mouse, which can lead to its complete extinction. Up to 50% of the populations of sandy blind mole-rat and stylodipus have been exterminated. They, as well as the vipera renardi and the Caspian whipsnake, do not have the opportunity to escape in a rapid flow. The lower reaches of the Dnipro are home the largest colonies of herons and other colonial birds. The disaster occurred during the period of nesting and hatching. They have no time to create new colonies and other broods.
The methods used by Russia to wage a war against Ukraine show that the Kremlin not only seeks to destroy Ukrainian statehood, but also to make the territory of Ukraine uninhabitable. Russian troops resort to the tactics of “the scorched earth” and deliberately commit crimes against the environment. Bringing the perpetrators of these crimes to justice is no longer only a matter for Ukraine, but for the entire international community. After all, the consequences of the war will inevitably affect the environmental situation in the world.
Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security
The post Flooded Land and Burned Forests. How Russians Fight against Environment in Ukraine appeared first on Centre for strategic communication.
For over a year and a half, Russia has been killing not only people but also nature. The aggressor is constantly causing Ukraine both economical and environmental damage. The calculation of climate damage is the first step to hold Russia accountable. Crimes against Ukrainian nature will be harmful to us in the long term With […]
It is imperative for Russia to lose its war of aggression in Ukraine. Since Ukraine cannot win this war without succour, it is imperative for the other European states to help Ukraine.
Why is it imperative for Russia to lose this war? First, this is a question of international order. Without a supranational entity in Europe that can provide centralised policing and military power, the European post-war order had to be built, again, on a system of explicit and implicit contracts between not-always-free but ever-freer countries. This system was built – more than any of its predecessors – on the principles of territorial integrity and the self-determination of peoples. It is these principles that ensured lasting peace in Europe and also allowed Europe to make its internal borders less onerous to cross, to the extent that they have become almost irrelevant, which, in turn, has given Europe decades of economic prosperity and growth.
Should Russia win its war of aggression in Ukraine, Europe’s foundation and all the prosperity that was built on it will be in jeopardy. Borders would be important but also violable again. Ukraine’s western-border countries would be in immediate military jeopardy. Even NATO could be, for Russia would only need to wait for another ‘Trump’ in the White House. Russia would continue to influence and manipulate the democratic process and societal dynamics in every other European country. In short, Europe, including Western Europe, would become quasi-vassals to a Russian Empire.
Second, this is a question of economics. In a Europe thus outlined – who would want to invest and innovate there? What would the risk premia be in such an economy? What would Europe’s contribution to the – necessary – global climate-protection transformation be when it lives again on ‘cheap’ Russian fossil energy? After all, why would Russia not want to sell this energy to its periphery? Europe’s brain drain would likely accelerate. Peace dividends would evaporate for a long time.
Third, this is a question of history. I find most plausible the interpretation that this war is the war of an empire attempting to ensure that a perceived periphery state does not venture too far from the centre and its influence. Russia simply cannot afford a prosperous and democratic Ukraine even if Ukraine was not a member of NATO or the EU. The correlate of this is that Putin’s regime models itself not on the Soviet Union, with its internal conservatism and checks and balances, but on the tzarist era of great expansion.
What is more, this empire exhibits now open fascism: militarism, manipulative propaganda, clericalism, a surveillance state, the ideology of a ‘New Russia’ rising again from humiliation, genocide, and – increasingly – a death cult, when Putin tells mothers of fallen Russian soldiers, “Your son lived, and his goal has been achieved. And that means he did not leave life in vain” (Reuters 2022). If this sounds familiar, then that’s because it is. The world has heard and seen this in the 1930s from Nazi Germany. Just as the order in Europe had to deal with a German Question in the 19th and 20th centuries, Europe, inevitably, now has to deal with a Russian Question in the 21st century.
Given these stakes, it should almost be unnecessary to discuss the costs of fighting this war, including imposing the harshest of sanctions against Russia and its ability to fight and win this war. Yet, we have heard and read a lot of schlock economics in this debate.
“Germany, and with it Europe, would collapse into mass unemployment and mass poverty if it stopped the import of Russian fossil fuels in the spring of 2022!”
Bachmann et al. (2022), using a multi-sector, multi-country trade model with calibrated input-output and trade structures and substitution elasticities, argued that there would be a recession, but a manageable one, for Germany, not deeper than that during the COVID-19 pandemic. After Russia did stop its exports of fossil fuels in the summer of 2022, little happened to either the German or the European economies: there was, for a price, sufficient alternative supply in the world markets, firms and households could save on energy consumption, and increased imports of energy-intensive products did the rest. Consequently, overall GDP and industrial production numbers were stable, only production in very energy-intensive sectors declined without cascading into the rest of the economy. Doomsday predictions were based on a wrong view of flexible and open market economies, an anti-market ideology, and a lust for subsidies.
“The ruble appreciates again!”
So what? As Itskhoki and Mukhin (2022a, 2022b) have convincingly argued, exchange rate dynamics are influenced by many factors, such as the type of sanctions whether they are levelled against imports or exports, financial frictions, and fiscal policy, and are not a sufficient statistic for welfare.
“Russia can just print its own money to pay for everything!”
This is an example of how modern monetary theory-like thinking can literally cost lives.
“Russia hardly slipped into a recession!”
The official Russian national accounting statistics do not support this claim. Although these data may not be fully trusted, they show a decline of real, seasonally adjusted GDP in 2022 from the fourth quarter in 2021 by approximately 5%, and a decline of real, seasonally adjusted private consumption expenditures by approximately 7.5%, while the government expenditures appear to have become an ever larger share of Russia’s GDP (see Figure 1). These numbers suggest a rather strong decline of real economic activity, which already is remarkable in a time of war that is not waged on its own territory. This decline in real economic activity is accompanied by an even larger decline in Russian average welfare, as marked by the collapse in private consumption as well as the likely massive decline in consumption varieties available to Russians, which corresponds to a decline in welfare that would not necessarily be picked up in the national accounting statistics (see also Morgan et. al 2023) (In a tweet from 2 February 2023, Janis Kluge (@jakluge) documents a persistent and similarly strong collapse in Russian retail sales).
FIGURE 1 RUSSIAN GDP AND COMPONENTS IN 2016 RUBLES, SEASONALLY ADJUSTED
Notes: Real, seasonally adjusted GDP and components in 2016 rubles from Rosstat (2022), Sheet 9. GDP: row 5, C (private consumption) row 8, G (government purchases), row 9. While the official national accounting statistics from Rosstat are not yet available for the fourth quarter of 2022, the Central Bank of Russia, on 10 February 2023, published an estimate of negative 4.6% for the year-over-year fourthquarter growth rate of real GDP, confirming the overall picture in Figure 1. For completeness, I note that the decline in yearly consumption between 2021 and 2022 estimated by the Central Bank of Russia is, with 1.8%, not quite as strong as the one they estimate for the decline in yearly GDP (2.5%). However, this calculation, because of time aggregation, hides somewhat the impact of the war and the ensuing sanctions.
With so much bad economics, it is almost not worth mentioning that a focus on growth rates rather than levels is also terribly misguided: even if the Western countries had suffered higher GDP or private-consumption losses than Russia because of their sanctions, they would have hit at a much higher level. With concave welfare functions, Russia would still be hurt more.
I want to conclude this column with a personal remark as a German citizen: I submit that Germany has to help Ukraine also from a moral standpoint. I grew up believing that “Never again!” is the core of German civil society and its government after the historically singular atrocities that Germans committed during the Holocaust and during WWII, often on Ukrainian soil. Instinctively, this “Never again!” had always meant “Never again Auschwitz!” or rather, not to relativise the historical singularity that is Auschwitz, “Never again genocidal wars of fascist aggression!”
It is true that a different strand of German public discourse interpreted and still is interpreting the “Never again!” differently, as “Never again war!”, as a form of pacifism that at most allows self-defence. On 13 May 1999, the then German foreign minister and vice-chancellor Joschka Fischer, during a special convention of the Green Party debating the German contribution to NATO’s Kosovo campaign, clarified the “Never again!” position emphatically against its pacifist interpretation. Thus, to me, in light of the historic pain that Germany has inflicted on Ukraine and its people, it is its moral duty to help Ukraine militarily and economically to the utmost.
Bachmann, R, D Baqaee, C Bayer, M Kuhn, A Löschel, B Moll, A Peichl, K Pittel, and M Schularick (2022), “What if? The economic effects for Germany of a stop of energy imports from Russia”, ECONtribute Policy Brief No. 028.
Itskhoki, O, and D Mukhin (2022a), “Sanctions and the exchange rate”, VoxEU.org, 16 May.
Itskhoki, O, and D Mukhin (2022b), “Sanctions and the exchange rate”, NBER Working Paper 30009.
Morgan, T J, C Syropoulos, and Y V Yotov (2023), “Economic sanctions: Evolution, consequences, and challenges”, Journal of Economic Perspectives 37(1): 3–30.
Neuenkirch, M, M Repko, and E Weber (2023), “Hawks and doves: Financial market perception of Western support for Ukraine”, IAB discussion paper 1/2023.
Rosstat (2022), “GDP statistics”, Sheet 9, 29 December. 5
Reuters (2022), “Putin tells mothers of soldiers killed in Ukraine: ‘We share your pain’”, 25 November.
This publication is a part of a collection of essays initiated by the National Bank of Ukraine. Famous economists, political scientists and historians, experts recognized in the world, volunteered to share their thoughts and arguments on why helping Ukraine is helping the world. The complete book of essays can be found via the link.
Ukraine is ready for a counteroffensive, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in an interview with the editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal, Emma Tucker, held in Odessa. According to Zelensky, Ukraine still needs additional resources, but cannot wait for months.
"There are several options for the development of the situation, completely different. But we will do it, we are ready," the Ukrainian President said.
Zelensky noted that he has no doubts about the success of the Ukrainian Armed Forces but warned that it may take time to liberate the territories occupied by Russia: "I don't know exactly how long it will take and what price we will pay."
He acknowledged that Russia has air superiority over Ukraine, and the lack of defense against Russian aircraft means that "a large number of soldiers will die." Nevertheless, he stressed that regaining control of the occupied territories would change the dynamics of the war.
The world has been waiting for the Ukrainian offensive for several months. In early May, Zelensky said that it was delayed due to a lack of weapons and ammunition. At the end of the month, he announced that the timing of the offensive had been approved.
The day before, the Washington Post wrote that, as part of the preparation for a counteroffensive, the Ukrainian Armed Forces began to clear their own minefields along the front line. In order not to reveal possible locations for a future operation, Ukrainian sappers have to go out into minefields at night and manually clear them. According to the commander of the engineering unit with the call sign Climate, such work has been underway for several weeks.