Zelenskyy Slams Russia for Damage to Environment

The Ukraine president said Vladimir Putin and his soldiers do not care about the environment, and the damage could have a long-term economic impact.
ukraine-enviornment
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaking via video at the GLOBSEC conference in Bratislava, Slovakia on Thursday, June 2. Photo via author.

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told a room full of NATO and government officials from neighboring countries that Russia’s war machine isn’t just a human horror but also an environmental disaster for his country. 

“Let us again remember the significance of the Danube River: This is the source of prosperity for various cities: Bratislava, Vienna, Budapest,” said Zelenskyy from an undisclosed location in Ukraine during the opening ceremony for GLOBSEC—an annual security conference in Bratislava, Slovakia. The conference brings together Western military brass and heads of state from the region, which for the first time in its nearly 20-year existence is being held with a war next door.

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“To make sure the Danube remains clean and safe to ensure that its economic potential, including transport potential, is in full swing,” said Zelenskyy, referring again to the second-longest river in Europe, flowing only feet away from conference goers. “We need cooperation from all countries which have received this great gift of nature.”

Zelenskyy said recent Russian missile strikes and an offensive, thwarted by Ukrainian forces in the country’s eastern Donbas region, were on ecologically important waterways. He said Russian President Vladimir Putin and his forces care little for the environment and are deliberately targeting the water security of Central and Eastern Europe with its continued war.

“The threats to the entire humanity is just impossible to be organized in a comprehensive way without being cognizant of what is taking place on water,” he said, referring to the war.

From the beginning of the Kremlin’s invasion, Russian forces have shown little regard for the effects of its war on the environment. Part of its earliest attacks included taking a position in Chernobyl (and bombing it), the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history, which kicked up nuclear dust. The problem hasn’t been lost on the Ukrainian government, which is, along with cataloguing alleged genocide and crimes against humanity, devoting investigations into the Russian crimes on the environment and the damage of bombings and munitions on groundwater and soil.

This year’s conference is focusing on mobilizing support for Ukraine, which is a little more than a five hour car-ride to the border from Bratislava. Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputová, who spoke before Zelenskyy, affirmed her country’s support for Ukraine and the grave threat still facing her nation and Europe writ-large.

“The Russian regime is waging a war on our democratic values, and the rules that have secured peace on our continent for decades,” she said. “And that is the true nature of the challenge we are facing today.”