This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar says Russian forces are carrying out “uncontrolled, barbaric” industrial-scale logging in Ukraine that will “inevitably lead to catastrophic consequences for the environment.”
Much of the forestland being destroyed by Russian forces and entrepreneurs in occupied areas of the Zaporizhzhya, Kherson, Donetsk, and other regions was planted to prevent wind and water erosion while also providing recreational benefits, Malyar said on April 5.
In the last 10 days of March, the defense official said, convoys of Russian trucks were reported to have removed freshly cut logs from areas near the occupied city of Mariupol in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region.
Malyar also said that in some occupied territories, the Russian military command had forbidden local farmers from working in the fields, which she said would “probably lead to a disruption of this year’s spring planting campaign” and leave farmland fallow.
In March, Ukrainian Environmental Minister Ruslan Strilets said the country’s forests were suffering greatly from Russia’s invasion, launched in February 2022. Strilets said that nearly 3 million hectares — about one-third of Ukraine’s forestland — had been damaged.
About 500,000 hectares of forestland are currently in occupied territory, Strilets said, along with 10 national parks, eight nature preserves, and two biosphere reserves. Altogether some 600 species of fauna and 750 species of flora are under threat of destruction, he added.
Ukraine’s Justice Ministry said on March 28 that it is working on ways to calculate the financial damages resulting from the environmental impact of the war. Thus far, damages of some 2 trillion hryvnyas ($54 million) have been reported by the State Environmental Inspectorate, not including forestland and nature reserves.
Damage to Ukrainian subsoil, according to preliminary estimates by the inspectorate, amount to 10 trillion hryvnya ($279 million).