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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Ukraine

Ukraine’s constitution contains provisions for the protection of the environment. Article 16 states that the government will “ensure ecological safety and to maintain the ecological balance on the territory of Ukraine, to overcome the consequences of the Chornobyl catastrophe - a catastrophe of global scale, and to preserve the gene pool of the Ukrainian people, is the duty of the State.”

Article 50 reads: “Everyone has the right to an environment that is safe for life and health, and to compensation for damages inflicted through the violation of this right”.

Finally, according to Article 66, “Everyone is obliged not to harm nature, cultural heritage and to compensate for any damage he or she inflicted.”

Featured Legislation

1984: Law No. 8073-X Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offenses was enacted. The scope Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offenses is to protect the rights and freedoms of citizens, property, constitutional order of Ukraine, rights and legitimate interests of enterprises, institutions and organizations, law and order, strengthening the rule of law, crime prevention, educating citizens in the spirit of strict observance of the Constitution and laws, respect for the rights, honor and dignity of other citizens, the rules of coexistence, conscientious performance of their duties, responsibility to society. A person who has committed an administrative offense is liable under the law in force at the time and place of the offense. An administrative offense is considered to have been committed intentionally when the person who committed it was aware of the illegal nature of his action or inaction, foresaw its harmful consequences and wanted them or knowingly allowed the occurrence of these consequences. Production, procurement, sale of agricultural commodities containing chemicals above the maximum permissible concentration levels, in particular containing plant protection means, growth stimulants, mineral fertilizers and other chemicals shall entail the imposition of a fine on citizens from three to seven non-taxable minimum incomes of citizens with confiscation of the specified products or without such and on officials – from five to eight non-taxable minimum incomes of citizens with confiscation of the specified products or without such (Art. 42 1). Procurement, processing or sale of radioactively contaminated food or other products contaminated with radioactivity above the permitted levels, in the absence of signs of an act provided for by the Criminal Code of Ukraine , shall entail the imposition of a fine on citizens in the amount of eight to twenty-five non-taxable minimum incomes of citizens with or without confiscation of such products and on officials – from fifteen to fifty non-taxable minimum incomes of citizens with or without confiscation of these products such (Art. 42 2). Unauthorized use of subsoil, conclusion of agreements that directly or covertly violate the right of ownership of subsoil, shall entail the imposition of a fine on citizens in the amount of ten to thirty non-taxable minimum incomes of citizens and on officials – from thirty to one hundred non-taxable minimum incomes of citizens (Art 47.).

1991:​​Law No. 1777-XII on the National Borderline of Ukraine was passed. This Law establishes that the coastal maritime zone of 12 sea miles delimits the territorial sea of Ukraine. In some cases different width of the territorial sea may be regulated by International Agreements of Ukraine and in default of these by International Law. Article 18 regulates navigation, the use of land, forest and wildlife in the borderline zone. Article 28 entitles the Coast Guard of Ukraine to detain and search a foreign vessel while fishing or harvesting in the territorial sea or inland sea of Ukraine in violation of the Legislation of Ukraine or of its International Agreements. Article 29 establishes that a foreign vessel may be detained in the territorial sea or inland sea of Ukraine if it is carrying out illegal fishery or harvest, discharges hazardous substances, or other waste materials. This Law is composed of 6 Sections composed of 35 articles.

1991: The framework Law On Environmental Protection was adopted before the collapse of the Soviet Union. As a follow-up, the Law On Air Protection (1992, new version dated 2001), the Water Code (1995), and Law On Waste (1998) were subsequently enacted to create regulatory frameworks for each of those institutions. Other laws address air protection, mineral resources, ecological expertise, etc. The main governmental body of Ukraine in the sphere of environment is the Ministry of Environmental Protection responsible for protection and administration of the environment. Authorities within the Ministry are divided among various agencies and committees. A number of other Ministries and Committees, including health protection, industrial safety and industrial policy, also have authority for certain aspects of environmental laws. Local authorities may also have some responsibility for administration of environmental laws, depending upon the nature of the project under consideration. Law enforcement bodies, such as the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the General Prosecutor’s Office, which includes a specialized environmental prosecutor’s department, have significant authority to enforce actions against violations of environmental laws.

1995: The Law of Ukraine (On Environmental Protection) was signed. The aim of legislation on environmental protection is to regulate relations in the sphere of protecting nature, utilization and regeneration of natural resources, maintenance of ecological safety, prevention and mitigation of the negative effects of economic and other activity on the environment, conservation of natural resources, the genetic pool of animate nature, landscapes and other natural complexes, unique territories and natural objects related to the historical and cultural heritage.

2015: Presidential Decree No. 5/2015 “On strategy for sustainable development “Ukraine-2020” was promulgated. The President decrees that the scope of the Strategy shall be to introduce the European standards of life in Ukraine and emergence of Ukraine to the leading positions in the world. Road map and immediate priorities of the Strategy envisage implementation of 62 reforms and state development programs within the framework of the four vectors of development, including: (a) small and medium business development program; (b) energy sector reform and energy efficiency program; (c) reform of agriculture and fisheries; (d) program of environmental protection; (e) reform of food quality control and food safety; and (f) reform of consumer protection. Implementation of the Strategy shall be based upon private-public partnership with a view of ensuring reforms, balance of interests between civil society, state and business, transparency and guarantees of observance of human rights. The main task is to provide energy security and the transition to energy-efficient and energy-saving use and energy consumption with the introduction of innovative technologies. The main objectives of state policy in the sphere of ensuring energy security shall be set forth as follows: (a) reducing the energy intensity of the gross domestic product (by 20 percent by the end of 2020) by ensuring (introduction) 100 percent of mandatory commercial accounting for energy consumption (energy and fuel), the transition to the use of energy efficient technologies and equipment, in particular through the mechanism of renewable energy sources.

2017: Ukraine’s 2050 Low Emission Development Strategy was created. The Low Emission Development Strategy (LEDS) determines national stakeholders' agreed vision on decoupling further economic and social growth of the State and its social development from the growth in greenhouse gasses emissions (GHG). LEDS development has become Ukraine's first experience in synergy approach application, as climate change problem solution requires significant advances in the key sectors of economy and main components to human livelihood. On the one hand, LEDS is based upon the national priorities for sustainable development and current sectoral strategies, while, on the other, it determines a potential pathway for economic development with due account of the goals for the state policy on emission reduction and GHG absorption.

2018: The Strategy for Low Carbon Development (SLCD) was introduced. The strategy defines a coordinated approach by parties concerned that have a national vision for separating further economic growth and social development of the state from the increase of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). For Ukraine, the development of the SLCD is the first experience of applying the synergistic approach, since addressing climate change requires significant changes in key areas of economy and the basic components of human life. SLCD is based on the priorities of sustainable development of the sectors of national economy in order to ensure economic growth by reduction of emissions and increase of GHG absorption. This policy document is multi-sectoral.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • Since the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces in February 2022, a group of environmental activists allege that Russia has committed more than 150 cases of ecological crimes. The Ukrainian non-governmental organization Ecoaction is recording cases of what it says are environmental crimes in military actions by Russian troops that cause serious pollution and harm to the ecosystem and people. Sofia Sadogurska, a climate change expert and member of the Ecoaction team investigating environmental offenses, has recorded examples of soil, water and air pollution, as well as damage to nuclear power plants, oil depots, sea ports and hazardous waste storage facilities. Even before the invasion by Russian forces in late February, a 2018 UN analysis found that fighting with separatist forces in the eastern Donbas region had affected, damaged or destroyed ecosystems within an area of  at least 530,000 hectares, including 18 nature reserves, with thousands of forest fires created in the military zone and neighboring areas. Russian attacks on coal mines and gas stations and intercepted Russian missiles lace the soil with ammonium and nitrates. Ukraine has 15 active nuclear reactors and throughout the war, there have been reports of Russian soldiers disturbing the  radioactive ground near Chernobyl and firing on the southeastern Zaporizhzhia facility,  briefly setting it on fire. As a result of the human misery and ecological devastation, more than 1,000 legal, environmental and peacebuilding experts issued an open letter in March, warning of the environmental costs of war. Neither Russia nor the United States recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, while the conventions that do exist are vague enough that pursuing action is “extraordinarily difficult."

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources:;