ZHYTOMYR, Ukraine – Fighter jet crashes into these forests of northwestern Ukraine, killing the 27-year-old pilot, cracking trees and spitting fuel, tearing his shield in the forest. Then it exploded. The ensuing wildfires burned trees and soil and threatened two nearby villages.
Two months later the fire was extinguished, and the area still smelled like jet fuel. Debris will ruin the land. Ukrainian blue and yellow cracked metal is placed between the green grass buds growing on black leaves. Another slide emerges from a tree 20 feet from the ground.
“This is a disaster,” said Victor Radushinsky, a member of the government’s forestry department.
One of many.
Ukraine’s state watchdog, the state agency, recorded more than 300 “Russian crimes” in Russia at the end of February. The actual number is believed to be close to 1,500, but many places are still occupied by Russia or are inaccessible by the war.
Fire on fuel depots. Damaged reservoirs of hazardous chemicals. Damaged gas pipes. Violence and wildfire in Chernobyl nuclear isolation zone. Damaged ships in the Black Sea region. These are the most immediate threats identified by the state agency.
However, the impact of the Russian invasion on the environment could extend beyond the borders of Ukraine.
Chemicals and substances are poisoning the region’s fertile farmland and supplying drinking water. Warships are killing dolphins, and an explosion is disrupting bird migration. Long-distance wars have wildlife sanctuaries. And there are fears that the war and its demise could undermine Europe, the Middle East, and Russia in the face of another devastating fire.
“This will have a long-term impact on people,” said Yevgeniy Medvedovskiy, head of the Zeitgeist Regional Environmental Protection Department. “The atmosphere is boundless, boundless. This applies to everyone.
Environmental impacts “only after the shells have stopped dispersing”
Considering the atrocities committed against people like Bucha and Mariupol and Russia’s current attacks on the people of eastern Ukraine, environmental damage, such as cracked trees and polluted waterways, may seem a second concern.
Carol Muffet, director of the Center for International Environmental Law in Washington, DC, said: “Long after the shells stopped exploding, the bullets and guns stopped.” An open letter signed by hundreds of international legal and environmental experts warning of the long-term threat of the conflict in Ukraine and Europe.
“When we talk about the environmental consequences of war, we are simply talking about the effects of war on people and their environment, and it is long and often malicious,” he said.
That fact will not be lost on the Ukrainian authorities. The country has formed a team of about 100 scientists in 18 regional offices, which are tasked with documenting what it calls civil war crimes.
In Zhytomyr, Task Force scientists are women, such as Irina Bereziuk, who control gas pipelines, industrial areas and air quality before Russia crosses the nearby Belarusian border in February. Now, to collect air, water, and soil samples, they have to visit mineral-rich wooden fields, Russian occupied areas, and still-burning fuel tanks.
“Sometimes the smell is so strong, you can’t even breathe,” said Berezik in the laboratory.
Each site is considered a crime scene. Photos taken. Interviews were conducted. Collected samples. According to Task Force Chairman Olexi O’Briza, all evidence will be used to “punish the attacker in international courts.”
There is little precedent in prosecuting such crimes in international courts. The United Nations Compensation Commission, set up after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1991, could refer to Ukrainian environmentalists. Scientists have argued that international law should be strengthened to make it easier to hold countries accountable.
Last year, an independent international jurist began trying to better describe ECOSID – or, as they put it, “there are illegal or reckless acts that have been known to cause serious and extensive or long-term damage to the environment. Created ”- According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Obrizan said from his office in Kiev that prosecuting such crimes in the International Court of Justice, especially in Russia, which holds a seat in the Security Council – following the Gulf War – would be a challenge.
But he says the effort to gather evidence of civil war crimes is worthwhile. “These environmental problems are not unique to Ukraine,” he said. “They belong to the world”
The war poses a widespread wildfire threat
One of the unimaginable examples of the war’s widespread environmental impact is how the region is affecting its ability to respond to summer fires.
Last year, Western Europe, Turkey, and northern Russia experienced severe fires. The Greek islands around Athens and the archipelago are engulfed in flames.
“We are looking at the real situation last year,” said Scott Dehnish, firefighter coordinator for the United States Agency for International Development. “Very hot and very dry.”
Western Europe’s first summer heat is on fire in Spain and Germany. Climate change in some areas is said to be as high as 10 degrees Fahrenheit[50 ° F]according to meteorologists.
The problem, says Danish, is that most firefighting aircraft, commonly used in Western Europe and the Middle East, come from Russia. He says he has a contract until the winter. “Those who are now off the table due to the restrictions and the absence of planes due to the war.”
Efforts are underway to fill the gap in Western Europe and the Mediterranean with firefighting aircraft from the United States and Canada, Dennis said. But both countries have their own interests, and the planes that fill those regions do little to alleviate the problem in Russia, the world’s most densely populated country.
Siberia is already experiencing a wildfire in the forested northern part of Russia. In May, Russian President Vladimir Putin took a break from wartime musicians to address the situation on Russian state media.
He said in a video message: “We cannot allow forest fires to recur in the last year, which has been very sustainable and strong in recent years.”
Wildfires in Siberia and the rest of the world are affecting global climate. Scientists believe that about half of the carbon stored in Petland – permafrost and cold-pressed carbon – is in the Arctic Circle. Wildfires open up that carbon, releasing more greenhouse gases that aggravate global warming. They also cover snow and ice with black soot, which causes them to melt faster.
“This war outside Ukraine has really had many, many serious consequences,” says Dehenish.
The biodiversity of the Black Sea is in danger.
On the southern coast of Ukraine, small herds of seabirds sit on a shallow beach near a standing lake.
Ukraine occupies less than 6 percent of Europe’s land, but is home to 35 percent biodiversity. The country is home to thousands of rare flora and fauna, and is an important destination for birds coming to Ukraine from Africa to Siberia in the spring.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February coincided with spring migration. Fighter jets flew over natural habitats. Explosions abound in the Black Sea. According to Ivan Russev, a Bulgarian environmentalist and ecologist at the Tuzla Lagons National Natural Park, the birds were frightened away from their habitat.
Rusev has a broad smile and a skinny complexion. He is wearing a necklace adorned with a diving bird, and the wings have been shown solely to give a sense of proportion. He grew up in a Soviet city where the water was polluted by industry and deforestation, and he learned the importance of conserving the natural world.
“We have to save biodiversity and help nature,” he said. “And it will help us.”
A.D. In 2010, Rousseff helped build the Tuzla Lagon National Natural Park with an 18-mile sand bar to protect the ecosystem from hunting and development. There are 55 national parks in Ukraine, says Rousseau. Many, the country’s largest, the Black Sea Biosphere Reserve near the city of Carson, are now under Russian control.
He said others – even part of the park – were now being used by the Ukrainian army to prevent future Russian advance.
A short drive from the park’s headquarters, Irina Vikrittiuk, director of the Tuzla Lagons National Natural Park, walks along the white sand of Ukraine’s Black Sea.
She says parts of the national park were bombed in the first month of the war. Explosions are still being felt along the coast, generally along Snake Island. Confused by the low-frequency radar used by Russian submarines and warships, dolphins are roaming the coast.
“Normally this place is like the sky,” says Vikristiuk, as small waves roll over the beach. It has the most amazing sunrise and sunset. The dark skies and starry landscapes attract photographers from Ukraine and around the world.
The beach is now empty.
When Ukraine wins the war – if not – says Victorist, looking at the sea, people will return.
Hopefully, she says, healing will help them.