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UK condemns environmental damage caused by Russia’s war: UK statement to the OSCE

Thank you, Mr Chair.

Earlier this week we marked Earth Day ‚Äď a global event which highlights the importance of protecting the natural environment. ¬†It promotes a message of hope and responsible stewardship. A message which stands in stark contrast to the devastating environmental impact of Russia‚Äôs illegal invasion of Ukraine.

In recent weeks we have discussed Russia’s appalling and relentless assault on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and the humanitarian toll this has wreaked. These strikes have also resulted in air, water and soil pollution. They expose the country’s population and environment to toxic chemicals and contaminated water supplies.

The destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam in June 2023 has had a devastating environmental impact in Ukraine and far beyond. This was a direct consequence of Russia’s illegal war. The dam’s breach resulted in the loss of the Kakhovka hydropower plant, the displacement of communities, the destruction of crops and natural habitats, and the contamination of the river through to the Black Sea. The destruction has been incalculable and will cast a long shadow over this delicate and important ecosystem for decades to come.

The reservoir from the Kakhovka plant was also important for the cooling system at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Everything possible must be done to reduce the risk of a nuclear accident. Russia must return full control of all nuclear facilities in Ukraine to their rightful sovereign owner: the Ukrainian authorities. This is the only way to ensure their safe and secure operation.

Mr Chair, there are countless more examples of the environmental cost of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. From the degradation of landscapes to forest fires; from the indiscriminate attacks on industrial facilities to the extensive use of land mines. We do not have time today to cover them in the detail they deserve. But the OSCE must continue to play an important role in monitoring the environmental impacts of this war so that one day Russia will be held to account for this damage too. 

Thank you, Mr Chair.

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