UKRAINE, KHARKIV OBLAST, Apr 9 — Almost half of the Kharkiv region was occupied by the Russians in February-March 2022, but in early September of the same year, the Armed Forces of Ukraine liberated most of its territory. Due to the hostilities, about 40-45% of the Kharkiv region’s forests are currently mined or damaged by fires, according to an investigation by

Chief forester of the Kupiansk forestry, Oleksandr Rybka, told reporters that their company did not work during the first two months of the occupation. In May, a former employee [of the Kupiansk forestry] approached him with a proposal to cooperate with the Russians, which Rybka refused and was forced to go into hiding. On September 10, he crossed the border with Russia and returned to Ukraine through the Baltic States and Poland, and on September 14, the Armed Forces of Ukraine liberated Kupiansk.

The Kupiansk forestry resumed operations in October 2022, but the extent of the destroyed forests has not yet been assessed due to the mined areas, Rybka says. According to the Deep State online map of hostilities, 70% of this forest is currently controlled by Russian troops, and part of the forest in the south is under the control of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Kupiansk forestry, April 9, 2024 / Screenshot from

“In the neighboring Izium forestry, the largest in the region, active fighting is going on right in the forest, we assume that most of it has burned down,” the forester said.

In addition, during the occupation, Russians exported timber from local forests. The Russians appointed a resident, Ivan Malieiev, to manage the Kupiansk forestry, for which he was convicted in absentia in Ukraine in January 2024. He is currently on the wanted list.

The State Forest Resources Agency of Ukraine estimates that the Russian military invasion has damaged almost 30% of Ukraine’s forests. An analysis of satellite images by journalists shows that over the two years of full-scale war, Russians have destroyed more than 60,000 hectares of forests in the occupied territories. The minimum estimate of the value of the lost forest exceeds $359 million. This is only direct damage from the loss of timber, not including other consequences of the hostilities, which can cost much more to eliminate.

As reported by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine, the Russian Federation caused environmental damage to Ukraine’s nature worth about $63 billion over the two years of the full-scale invasion. Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv Oblasts suffered the most due to the war with Russia.

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