January 31, 2023

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Taste the Home & Environment

Russia’s $35B in Environmental Damage Violates Geneva Conventions: Ukraine

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Monday that Russia violated an article of the 1949 Geneva Conventions by causing around $35 billion in environmental damage in Ukraine amid its ongoing war.

“The damage to the ecology caused by Russia is estimated at $35.3 billion. Millions of hectares of nature preserves are under threat. Article 55 of the Protocol I [of the 1949 Geneva Conventions] prohibits waging war VS the natural environment by way of reprisals, but Russia doesn’t care,” he tweeted.

Article 55 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, titled Protection of the Natural Environment, reads as follows: “Care shall be taken in warfare to protect the natural environment against widespread, long-term and severe damage.

“This protection includes a prohibition of the use of methods or means of warfare which are intended or may be expected to cause such damage to the natural environment and thereby to prejudice the health or survival of the population.”

Additionally, attacks against the environment that are carried out as retaliation are also prohibited under Article 55, according to the International Humanitarian Law Databases.

Above, this photograph taken on November 29, 2022, shows a destroyed bridge in Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s Donetsk region. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Monday that Russia violated an article of the 1949 Geneva Conventions by causing around $35 billion in environmental damage in Ukraine amid its ongoing war.
Photo by YEVHEN TITOV/AFP via Getty Images

The State Environment Inspectorate of Ukraine reported in December that Russia’s war has polluted more than 291 million square meters of land in Ukraine and littered over 8 billion square meters in the country, causing an estimated $12 billion in damaged land resources, the Kyiv Independent reported.

In August, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine said in a Telegram post that it documented over 2,000 incidents of Russian forces destroying Ukrainian air, soil and water.

The ministry at the time estimated that the total damage to Ukrainian soil and water resources caused by the Russian invasion, which began on February 24 of last year, was over $10 billion.

“From the beginning of the large-scale invasion of the Russian Federation into Ukraine, we record all the crimes of the occupier against the environment in order to make him [Russian President Vladimir Putin] pay in full for what he has done to the Ukrainian people,” the ministry said at the time, according to an English translation.

Reznikov recently listed a number of Russian actions that violated international agreements and laws, including the recruitment of Ukrainians to fight against their country, which is banned under Article 51 of the Geneva Conventions.

“Russians continue to forcibly recruit Ukrainians from the occupied territories to fight against their own country. I would like to remind you that the 4th Geneva Convention prohibits the occupiers from compelling protected persons to serve in their army,” the Ukrainian defense minister said on Friday.

He also pointed out that Russia violated the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which prohibits or restricts the use of weapons that are deemed “excessively injurious.”

“Booby traps in dead soldiers and mass graves, soft toys and children’s backpacks, in schools, hospitals and apartments…This is a partial list of Russia’s violations of Protocol ІІ to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in [Ukraine],” he said on Thursday.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian foreign affairs ministry and the State Environment Inspectorate of Ukraine for comment.