Last week, the leaders of the world’s leading states arrived on the Indonesian island of Bali for the annual meeting of the G20 countries, which unites the world’s leading economies. All these countries in one or another way are experiencing the consequences of the war of the russian federation against Ukraine.
The fact that the issue of the war in Ukraine is more acute in the world than ever is evidenced by the possibility for the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi to give a speech and address participants of the meeting.
The President announced the main Ukrainian messages aimed to establish a just peace in our country and the world as a whole. The main elements of the “formula for peace” proposed by the President are:
radiation and nuclear safety;
release of all prisoners and deportees;
implementation of the UN Charter and restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the world order;
withdrawal of Russian troops and cessation of hostilities.
a special tribunal regarding the crime of russian aggression against Ukraine and creation of an international mechanism to compensate for all damages caused by this war. Compensation at the expense of russian assets because it is the aggressor who must do everything to restore the justice violated by him;
immediate protection of the environment from ecocide;
confirmation of the end of the war.
Special attention should be paid to the words of the President of Ukraine regarding ecocide and the damage that the war is causing to the Ukrainian environment. We welcome the correct priorities of the head of the state and the fact that he spoke about the environment as a silent victim of the war.
The most important points made with this regards were as follows:
“Millions of hectares of forest were burned by shelling. Almost 200,000 hectares of our land are contaminated by unexploded mines and shells.”
“Dozens of coal mines are flooded.”
“It is impossible to accurately calculate the amount of atmospheric pollution caused by burnt oil depots and other fires.”
“Many burials of killed animals.”
“Thousands of hectares of soil are contaminated with harmful substances. Most of them are fertile soils. They used to be fertile soils.”
“I proposed to create a platform for assessing environmental damage caused by the war. We have to do it.”
“We must also find joint answers to all environmental threats created by the war. Without it, there will be no return to a normal, stable life, and the echoes of the war will linger for a long time.”
“There is an urgent need to increase the number of equipment and specialists for demining.”
“Funds and technologies are also needed to restore water treatment facilities.”
“This is not just a Ukrainian problem. This is a challenge for the whole world.”
It is interesting that in his speech the President also mentions not entirely reliable data regarding the mortality rate of dolphins in the Black Sea, indicating that at least 50,000 dolphins died as a result of the hostilities. Such numbers are not yet supported by evidence. It should be emphasized that as of September 2022, a criminal proceeding under Article 441 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (“ecocide”).was started to address the fact of mass destruction of objects of animal world (dolphins in this case).
Despite some minor inaccuracies, most of the President’s messages in this regard are relevant.
We see as problematic the fact that while the top leadership of the state talks about environmental protection, compensation for damage to the environment of Ukraine, responsibility for committing ecocide, the state authorities, in particular, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine, do not help the prosecutor’s office in the investigation of “ecocide” crimes, the evidence base is collected sporadically, funding of sampling and testing is fragmented, the reform of the State Environmental Inspectorate (SEI) is “stuck” in the power circles.
It should be understood that the concept of “Ecocide” is not just a “fancy term”, it has certain insights, that imply mechanisms of bringing guilty persons to criminal responsibility. It is difficult to ask the international community to help Ukraine in bringing the perpetrators to justice for ecocide without having a proper national mechanism that would be clear and understandable for law enforcement.
In view of such statements of the President, it becomes even more evident that it is necessary to enshrine the crime of “ecocide” in the current Criminal Code of Ukraine and to include the crime of ecocide into the Rome Statute that should be ratified by Ukraine.
Decriminalization of ecocide will not only deprive Ukraine of a preventive tool in terms of ensuring preservation of the environment, will lead to avoidance of responsibility by persons who have committed such a criminal offense, but will also practically ruin the legal possibilities for international cooperation in helping Ukraine in this area.
It seems that such a call from the President should be interpreted not only as an appeal to the world community for cooperation and assistance in environmental protection issues in relation to the war, but also as an obligation of Ukraine to create a high-quality legal regulation of the mentioned issues, mainly in terms of ecocide. It also means the vital importance of carrying out the reform of environmental control, strengthening the institutional capacity and professionalism of the Ministry of Environment and central executive authorities, which it coordinates, speeding up the adoption of laws and by-laws related to liability for environmental damage and “European integration” laws, establishing the processes of applying for help to international partners in order to assess damages, document them, minimize the harm and restore the environment.