The Russian invasion in Ukraine, starting on the 24 February, has torn the world apart, killing more than 2,000 Ukrainian civilians, more than 498 Russian soldiers and more than 1 million Ukrainians have fled their homeland. It is unknown when this war will end, but without doubt, the environmental impacts will last for generations.
Ukraine intercepted missiles aimed at the Kyiv Reservoir. Kyiv is bisected by the Dnieper River, a 1,400-mile waterway that bisects most of the country. If this is successful, it could cause serious floods in the capital. According to a representative for the Ukrainian Volunteer Journalists Initiative (UVJI), a group of local volunteers who maintain a daily, fact-checked record of casualties and damage, “If that dam was damaged, Kyiv would be flooded, and there would be a humanitarian crisis ... and it would cause a sort of cascade effect on other locks and dams along the Dnipro,”.
Another risk factor is Ukraine's 15 nuclear power plants, which are the largest single nuclear power plants in any country. As reported by UVJI representatives, the same intercepted strikes targeting the reservoir could have damaged one of those sites as well.
Furthermore, in separatist-controlled areas, deteriorating sanitary infrastructure is dumping untreated sewage into the Donetsk River, poses a health risk to those who depend on the Donetsk River for water supply. Dozens of mines containing radioactive materials and heavy metals such as mercury, lead and arsenic have been abandoned and filled with water that needs to be pumped naturally, which can contaminate floods and groundwater. According to a 2020 article in the Small Wars Journal, unexploded ordnance left in combat poses a direct threat to civilians, but pollutes local waterways and releases toxic chemicals from the surrounding soil.
UVJI officials said Russian troops see the environment in Ukraine and Europe as a strategic target for aggression. "They hold the environment hostage" he said. "If they succeed, the byproduct to the environment especially could be immense."
Besides, military vehicles and weapons cause air pollution and produce toxic dust. Water sources are polluted and wildlife is affected. In just one example, cancer, birth defects, and other illnesses may be associated with pollution from the Iraq War.