Environmental consequences of the war in Ukraine

SEMINAR · 29.05.2024 09:30 - 11:00

The Russian war of aggression in Ukraine has already caused devastating harm to the environment. Bombing and shelling have contaminated water resources, spread toxic chemicals to the soil and caused severe air pollution. Attacks on infrastructure, such as the destruction of the Kakhovka dam, have ravaged biodiversity and destroyed agricultural land for years to come. While the war needs to end for the destruction to stop, it will take years of remediation and reconstruction to ensure a sustainable and safe environment in Ukraine. Work is already underway to monitor and clean up the damage, and the international community needs to bear a responsibility in supporting Ukraine in these efforts.

This seminar will consider how the environmental destruction in Ukraine can be addressed. What is the scale of the damage, and what kind of remediation measures are needed? What are the options within international law to seek accountability for the damages caused by Russia? What kind of support is needed from international actors?

This seminar is organized in cooperation with WWF Finland.


Opening words

Katja Creutz

Programme Director, FIIA

Katja Creutz is Programme Director of the Global Security and Governance research programme. She is also an Affiliated Research Fellow with the Erik Castrén Institute at the University of Helsinki. Her main field of expertise is international law and especially issues of responsibility, human rights and global governance. Dr Creutz holds a Doctor of Laws degree (2015) and a Master of Laws programme degree from the University of Helsinki (2004) and a Master of Political Science from Åbo Akademi University (2000).

Creutz has previously worked as Research Fellow at the Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights of the University of Helsinki. She is the former Executive Editor of the Finnish Yearbook of International Law. She has published extensively on responsibility in international law, non-state actors, human rights and Nordic issues. Her latest academic publications include: “The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and Rights Protection: Revisionist or Just Another Kid on the Block?” and “Nordic Experiences in the UN Human Rights Council: A Tour d’Horizon of 2019 with Iceland and Denmark”. She is also the author of the monograph “State Responsibility in the International Legal Order: A Critical Appraisal” (CUP, 2020).


Bohdan Vykhor

Managing Director (CEO), WWF Ukraine

Bohdan Vykhor is the Managing director (CEO) at WWF-Ukraine. He has previously worked as Wildlife program manager at WWF-Ukraine, supervising work on iconic species conservation sturgeons, bison, bears and lynxes. Previously, he has worked in the energy sector as Deputy of technical director for environment protection at Lviv Coal Company responsible for environmental standards, waste management and pollution prevention. He started his career as a state servant in the Lviv region branch of the Ministry of Environment of Ukraine managing natural resources, lands and mines usage. He also acts as a Scientific volunteer at the State Museum of Natural History, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Lviv, participating in scientific studies on biodiversity protection in the Carpathian region. He has a Ph.D. in Ecology from State Ecological Academy of Postgraduate education and Management and graduated with a Master degree from Ivan Franko national university of Lviv, Biological faculty.

Heidi Hautala

Member of European Parliament & Member, International Working Group on the Environmental Consequences of War

Heidi Hautala is a Vice-President of the European Parliament and an MEP in the Greens/EFA group. She was elected as Vice-President of the European Parliament in October 2017 and serves on the Committee on International Trade and the Subcommittee on Human Rights. In Finland, Hautala served as a Member of Parliament from 1991 to 1995 and from 2003 to 2009. From 2011 to 2013, she was the Minister for International Development and State Ownership Steering. She holds a Master's degree in Agriculture and Forestry. In May 2023, the Office of the President of Ukraine invited Ms Hautala to serve in the High-Level Working Group on the Environmental Consequences of the War. The Working Group presented its report, An Environmental Compact for Ukraine, to President Zelenskyy in February 2024.

Freek van der Vet

University Researcher, University of Helsinki

Freek van der Vet is a University Researcher at the Erik Castrén Institute of Human Rights and International Law, at the University of Helsinki. He has a PhD in sociology (University of Helsinki, 2015) and is the principal investigator of the “Toxic Crimes Project”, a research group on the protection and monitoring of environmental harm during war (funded by the Academy of Finland and Kone Foundation). His past research concerned civil society under authoritarianism, the protection of human rights defenders at risk, and strategic litigation at international courts on grave atrocities from Russia’s conflicts in Georgia, Ukraine, and Chechnya. His academic work has been published in Law & Society Review, Law & Social Inquiry, Europe-Asia Studies, The International Journal of Human Rights, Social & Legal Studies, and others. He completed fellowships at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia (Canada), and iCourts, University of Copenhagen (Denmark). He is a member and co-founder of the international network "ActInCourts" (Activists in International Courts), an emerging international network of human rights practitioners and scholars who work on the involvement of NGOs and lawyers at international courts around the world.


Emma Hakala

Leading Researcher, FIIA

Emma Hakala is a Leading Researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. Her research focuses on environmental security and the geopolitics of climate change, such as the role of international actors in building climate security practices. She leads the project “Climate change and Finland’s security of supply” and a part on conflict analysis in the project “Water Cooperation and Peace – Finnish Water Way”, which FIIA implements as a partner of the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE).

Hakala gained her D.Soc.Sci degree in political history at the University of Helsinki in 2019. Her doctoral dissertation focused on the securitisation of the environment and the role of international organisations in post-conflict Western Balkans. Hakala has previously obtained a Master’s degree in political history at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki. Hakala is also currently a Postdoctoral Researcher in the project “Toxic Crimes: Legal Activism against Wartime Environmental Destruction” at the University of Helsinki and a member of the multidisciplinary BIOS Research Unit.