Ukraine: European leaders visit Kyiv
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Thousands of people have died since Russian troops entered Ukraine on February 24 with the aim of taking most of the country. Vladimir Putin’s grand plan failed, but it did not stop his forces from wiping Ukrainian cities off the map and causing mass destruction.
The damage to the environment in Ukraine is a huge concern to international governments, especially with climate change already having an impact on Earth.
Russian soldiers have attacked chemical plants, oil depots and nuclear power plants on their rampage of destruction.
Many fields and areas of wildlife have also been destroyed by fighting leading to pollution in the soil and air.
And Ukraine’s Environment Minister has been gathering evidence of all of this to one day get payback on Mr Putin.
Speaking at a media briefing in May, Ruslan Strilets explained how the effort to get payback on Russia is an international one.
He said: “From the first days of the war we have been recording the environmental crimes of the occupiers.
“We are calculating the inflicted damage with the methodological assistance of our international colleagues, including from Poland.
“We are collaborating with the best law firms that are among the top 5 in the world.”
A special task force has been set up to investigate environmental crimes in Ukraine during the war.
It is part of the Ecological Inspectorate of Ukraine and has a team of 100 people collecting evidence.
They are using images, videos and satellites to find examples, and they are also travelling to areas of fighting to collect samples.
One day, the Minister hopes to present these findings in an international court and hold Russia responsible for its work.
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Since the start of the war, the Ministry has found 257 instances of environmental crime in Ukraine.
The cost of this damage is thought to be around 204 billion Ukrainian Hryvnia – 6.6 billion Euros.
Mr Strilets explained last month: “Our goal is to get compensation for all the damage caused to the environment.”
If successful, this could see billions being paid to Ukraine after the war.
To help document the damage, an app was launched called EcoZagroza which Ukrainians can download to share images and videos of environmental damage.
EcoZagroza provides users with information about the environment, such as air quality and radiation levels too.
However, holding Russia accountable for its crimes could prove a difficult task.
Ukraine must prove that any environmental crimes committed by Russian troops were severe, widespread, long-term and intentional to international courts.
And while Russian troops continue to occupy large parts of Ukraine’s south and east, that will be a very difficult task to carry out.
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