The severe flood that occurred this week in the western regions of Ukraine gave impetus to serious reflection by both government officials and experts, and civil society.

All Ukrainians were particularly struck by the scale of the disaster, as heavy rains and a sharp rise in river levels caused many disasters: not only homes but also infrastructure was damaged.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, several hundred settlements were flooded, 229 bridges, and about 750 kilometers of roads, including those of state importance, were damaged and destroyed.

The country’s prime minister and law enforcement officials kept the situation under constant control.

The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi also had a working visit to the areas hit by the natural disaster. In particular, he visited the village of Lanchyn (Ivano-Frankivsk region), which was severely affected by the flood.

According to the head of state, employees of the State Emergency Service, soldiers of the National Guard, the National Police, and road workers worked around the clock to eliminate the effects of the flood.

The Prime Minister of Ukraine, Denys Shmygal, who also inspected the affected areas, said the situation was critical and the flooding exceeded the 2008 floods.

Officially, three people were reported dead. The authorities are still in the process of assessing the losses, but it is already about hundreds of millions of hryvnias. So far, the government has allocated UAH 754 million from the reserve fund to provide assistance in Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, Chernivtsi, and Zakarpattia oblasts.

The Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Arsen Avakov noted that it would take about two weeks to eliminate the main consequences of the flood. Now, according to him, the main problem is providing the victims with drinking water.

“I watched how our helicopters work there – the SES and the National Guard. They mainly transport drinking water and food to the areas. We don’t have normal drinking water right now. This is a huge problem,” the official said.

Request for help

Immediately after the preliminary assessment of the scale of the catastrophe, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine appealed to the European Union and NATO to help overcome the effects of the flood. Appeals were also addressed to partner countries and to the headquarters of international organizations.

“Ukraine’s Mission to the EU and Ukraine’s Mission to NATO have called on EU institutions and Allies to activate the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and involve NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center,” said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

The Foreign Ministry expects to support the government’s efforts to protect the lives and health of citizens, critical infrastructure, and reduce the negative impact of the disaster on economic activity.

The Hungarian government responded to the call almost immediately. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Peter Siyarto stated that the state is ready to send a unit of the multinational engineering battalion “Tysa” to help Ukrainians.

The US Embassy in Ukraine also announced the allocation of financial assistance. “The United States supports Ukraine in this difficult time of heavy flooding in Western Ukraine. With the help of USAID, the American people will provide new funding of $ 100,000 to support Ukraine in the fight against this humanitarian catastrophe,” the statement reads.

Searching for the culprits

Already during the first attempts to analyze the scale of the natural disaster, many Ukrainian media began to publish materials that somehow led people to believe that the main cause of the flood was mass illegal deforestation in the Carpathians.

These theses were especially actively dispersed on social networks.

In addition, some publications published a study (coinciding in timing with the flood) of the British non-governmental organization Earthsight, which claims that the Swedish corporation IKEA uses illegally felled wood in the Ukrainian Carpathians to make furniture. In particular, it is alleged that IKEA chairs are made of beech trees that are illegally cut in Velykyi Bychkiv (Rakhiv district, Zakarpattia region).

The company assured that they do not produce their products from illegally felled timber and began an independent audit of supplies from Ukraine. IKEA also noted that Ukrainian wood accounts for less than 1% of all raw materials received by the corporation for the production of its products.

However, a wave of hatred and negativity about IKEA products has already captured some users of social networks.

The Security Service of Ukraine is launching an investigation

The Security Service of Ukraine also undertook an investigation into the causes of the floods in the western regions, which opened proceedings under the article “ecocide”. Law enforcement will now investigate whether the activities or inaction of local officials could have led to large-scale destruction.

The press service of the Security Service of Ukraine reported that operatives recorded the mass destruction of flora, which could probably be the cause of an ecological catastrophe.

“The service handed over to the prosecutor’s office materials on illegal deforestation, improper forestry, and non-compliance with environmental protection measures by authorized persons in the western regions,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, weather forecasters emphasize that mass illegal, often chaotic deforestation does affect the flood situation, but the causes of the disaster are complex. In particular, the fact that in the Carpathians several months’ levels of rainfall fell during a short period of time. In addition, large-scale destruction is caused by the lack of serious work onshore protection.

As a conclusion…

It is obvious that certain forces both inside and outside Ukraine are trying to make the most of the flood situation, so the Ukrainian authorities need to be vigilant in the infospace to prevent the spread of various fake reports and avoid manipulation of information. As a result, Ukraine has to fight not only with the elements and their consequences but also on the information front, where every event is used as an opportunity to weaken our state.

Bohdan Marusyak

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