Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began Feb. 24, is taking a toll on the country’s civilian infrastructure, with news reports and unverified video showing residential buildings and other facilities damaged or occupied, and the nation’s construction sector halted.
Two large apartment structures in the capital of Kyiv were apparently hit by missiles that destroyed or damaged floors, said Ukraine’s State Emergency Service, despite a statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that there would be “no strikes on civilian infrastructure.”
Russian shelling also damaged the main water supply line in Horlivka in the Donetsk region and a thermal power plant in the Luhansk region, according to emergency officials in wire reports.
Ukraine’s Infrastructure Ministry said that a Russian missile was intercepted on Feb. 26 before it could strike the dam of the 356-sq-mi Kyiv Cistern, the city’s main reservoir, said the Associated Press. But Russian troops were able to destroy a concrete dam that Ukraine had built in 2014 in the southern Kherson region to restrict water to Crimea before Russia was set to annex it, according to comments from the region’s governor reported by Reuters.
Most construction in Ukraine appears to have halted in the wake of Russia’s attack, with local workers not in offices or on jobsites. and many foreign staff leaving the country, according to an official of one contractor with operations in the country.
President Volodymyr Zelensky announced country-wide martial law on Feb. 24, telling residents in an address to “keep calm”and “stay at home if you can.”
The Ukrainian health minister said on Feb. 27 that 352 people had been killed in the fighting, and 1,684 were wounded.
Service was suspended on Kyiv’s subway system, with stations serving as 24/7 shelters, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Twitter.
In efforts to slow the Russian advance on Kyiv, Ukrainian military destroyed a number of key crossings. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said its assault troops blew up a bridge over the Teteriv River at Ivankiv, 30 miles north of Kyiv, and one in the province of Kherson that had connected Russian-occupied Crimea and mainland Ukraine. The latter explosion killed a Ukrainian Marine battalion engineer.
Baturay Konak, chief operations officer of Turkey-based contractor Onur Group, which has operations based in Lviv in western Ukraine and has worked in country since 2004, told ENR that fighting in the vicinity of the city of Zaporizhzhia, about 350 miles southeast of Kyiv, has not damaged a newly completed cable-stayed bridge there on which the firm was a major contractor.
Despite a long delay in construction from funding shortfalls and political battles, the 166-m-tall bridge now is the tallest in Ukraine and is considered a strong symbol of national progress by President Zelensky, who dedicated its opening on Jan. 22. At an estimated cost of $480 million, the 9-km crossing connects the city’s 750,000 residents across the Dnipro River for the first time.
Konak says none of Onur Group’s other projects in Ukraine have been damaged, including one estimated at $210 million begun last year to build a 3.2-km airfield at the airport in Dnipro, roughly 240 miles southeast of Kyiv and the country’s fourth largest city.
According to Konak, the firm’s jobsites have been secured by the Ukrainian military, with barriers and obstacles placed at site entrances. He says that based on communications with local staff, most other contractors in the country “are waiting and not working.”
The Russian incursion also could impact Israel’s construction sector, since the country imports much of its building material supply from Ukraine, including $175 million of iron and steel in 2018, according to The Jerusalem Post. Israel also outsources a significant chunk of its high-tech work there, as Ukraine serves as a low-cost center with a skilled workforce.
Meanwhile, Russian troops are believed to have entered Ukraine from Belarus, said to be a Russia ally, captured the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and exclusion zone around it, about 130 miles north of Kyiv, Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said in a February 24 news briefing to media that was reported by Reuters.
The plant, which suffered a meltdown in what was the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986, has had its damaged reactor encased in a protective shelter since 2018 to prevent radiation leaks. Ukraine officials said on Feb. 25 that the site had recorded increased radiation levels, which was due to military activity that stirred up radioactive dust in the area.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, an inspection arm of the United Nations, said there was no elevated public risk from the activity. Ukraine’s 15 operating reactors are safe and secure, according to IAEA. Half of the country’s power supply comes from nuclear, the agency said.
Ukrainian energy firm Naftogas said on Feb. 24 that the country’s energy infrastructure, including oil and natural gas pipelines, has not been targeted for systematic shelling and is operating, Reuters reported. But on Feb. 26, Russian military blew up a gas pipeline in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, Zelensky’s office announced. Naftogas is evacuating employees from high-risk facilities near front lines.
Ukraine’s gas supply system is integrated into in-country transit gas pipelines that are used to ship supply from Russia to Europe.
The future of the estimated $11-billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline—the 1,234-km line from St Petersburg, Russia under the Baltic Sea to Germany that was completed last year but is not yet operating—now is under global speculation of cancellation because of the attack.
The European Union has halted its certification amid sanctions imposed on Russia by western countries.
Nord Stream 2 AG, a Switzerland-based company owned by Russian energy firm Gazprom that operates the gas pipeline project, had no comment on potential sanctions. The Russian government owns more than half of the firm’s shares, according to The Wall Street Journal. The pipeline had been planned to double Russian gas exports to Germany.