Climate activist Greta Thunberg latest world leader to meet with Ukrainian president

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Climate firebrand Greta Thunberg became the latest of several prominent world figures to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy this week amid his nation’s ongoing war with Russia.

Thunberg traveled to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city, Thursday for the first meeting of the International Working Group on the Environmental Consequences of War. 

Thunberg was joined by other members of the working group, including co-chair Andriy Yermak and European Parliament Vice President Heidi Hautala in addition to a group of Ukrainian environmental activists.

‘Ecocide, the destruction of the environment, is a form of warfare,’ Thunberg remarked during the meeting. ‘Unfortunately, Ukrainians now understand this very well. Russia deliberately targets its actions against the environment, against the livelihood of people.’

‘I think we need to connect the dots: The danger, the threat of war, human suffering and ecocide are all connected,’ the Swedish activist added. ‘None of us should ignore the terrible things that are happening in Ukraine, the crimes that Russia is committing here.’ 

Following the meeting, Zelenskyy issued a video message saying the working group primarily discussed Russia’s suspected attack and ‘ecocide’ on the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant. Earlier this month, Ukraine officials blamed Russia for the destruction of the dam, which displaced hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians and disrupted power supplies.

In addition, Zelenskyy said the working group will continue to address issues arising from the ‘destructive impact of Russian aggression on nature.’

A release from the president’s office Thursday highlighted the group will further develop recommendations ‘for finding mechanisms to bring the aggressor to justice for environmental crimes so that Russia pays in full for the destruction it has caused’ and focus on environmental restoration efforts.

‘I really hope that we will be able to collect assessments of what is happening from central and local authorities and environmental organizations to assess the environmental damage that Ukraine is experiencing,’ Thunberg added. 

‘We need to hold Russia accountable for its crimes, and the people who have suffered damage should be able to recover, just as Ukraine should be able to recover in a sustainable way.’

Yermak, the working group’s co-chair and head of the office of the president of Ukraine, said the group would also draft a Ukraine Environmental Treaty to create conditions for environmental protection.

The activists concluded by calling for ecocide to be a crime, for Russia to pay environmental reparations and for rapid governmental responses to eco crimes.

‘Ukraine is in the focus of attention, but we are also doing this to show the world that such environmental destruction and the terrible consequences of conflict and war should not go unpunished. There must be accountability,’ Hautala said.

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