From the first days of the large-scale invasion, the Russians targeted energy facilities, set forests on fire, blew up oil depots, and polluted the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
Crimes against the environment are part of war crimes, according to the Geneva Convention of 1949.
The ecological catastrophe is looming over the Old World. Its consequences for Europe are a matter of weeks, not years.
The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone shows an increase in radiation level. Satellites monitor and assess the situation daily, sometimes hourly. The Chornobyl Zone and the broader Polissya woods (Polesia in Polish and Belarussian) have experienced fires. A large emission of cesium-137 radionuclides is suspected.
Ukraine is ready to make an action plan but the territory is completely mined, both on and around the nuclear power plant. The risk of another attack by the Russian and Belarusian troops passing through the Exclusion Zone remains high – explains Oleksandr Bondar, a renowned environmental expert and the rector of the State Ecological Academy of Postgraduate Education.
The Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly provided evidence of daily threats of an explosion during the Russian occupation of the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant.
It is corroborated by the evidence provided by the power plant employees who worked under the control of the Russian military and were interviewed by the BBC. One of the engineers said that when the station was without electricity for 3 days, he tried his best to find fuel to support the operation of the generator – he even took it from the Russian military without permission. The lack of electricity would lead to the release of radioactive substances that would result in a real tragedy for humanity.
Russia continues to control the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. The Zaporizhzhya NPP is the largest in Europe and the sixth-largest in the world. It consists of six reactors. It also houses a nuclear waste storage facility that has accumulated a lot of nuclear waste from the NPP.
The Russian military already detonated mines in early March. It was pure luck that they did not blow the first reactor unit.
Overall, there are 15 nuclear reactors across Ukraine with the total capacity of 13,835 MW. All the regions where these reactors are located have suffered from Russian airstrikes, with missiles hitting all kinds of places.
An explosion at any of the nuclear power plants will cover the whole of Europe with radioactive clouds, – explains geographer Simon Kuestenmacher.
Environmental hazard does not originate from nuclear power only. “Odesa Port Plant,” a chemicals production and tanker filling facility, has accumulated 40,000 metric tons of ammonia meant to be exported but stuck because Russia blocked the Black Sea for commerce. If a shell or a missile hits the ammonia, it will be catastrophic. Ammonia in a large quantity in the air is a deadly substance. It will affect not only the whole south of Ukraine but also Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria, the latter two are part of the EU. The sea itself will be catastrophically polluted too.
Another disaster is waiting to come in western Ukraine. The decommissioned Dombrovsky salts quarry that was flooded is located near the Tisza River in the outskirts of the town of Kalush in Ivano-Frankivsk Region. 500 million metric tons of salts is conserved there. If the system of dams is damaged due to an explosion, it will be a disaster for the whole of Europe. These salts will get into the Danube River that flows through four European capitals – Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade.
The pollution with these salts will destroy the nature reserves and will affect flora and fauna upstream and downstream. Furthermore, the ingress of salts into groundwater threatens to cause a water crisis across northern Romania, Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria.
If you wish to read why the war in Ukraine has set in motion a food crisis for the whole world, click here