Russia’s War and Ukraine’s Forests: Destruction and Resilience

Russia’s War and Ukraine’s Forests: Destruction and Resilience

Monday, April 10, 2023

12:00 PM - 1:30 PM


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Virtual Event

The Forest School at the Yale School of the Environment welcomes researchers Brian Milakovsky ’09 MF and Sergiy Zibtsev, visiting Fulbright Scholar at YSE from 2004-2005, for their virtual talk “Russia’s War and Ukraine’s Forests: Destruction and Resilience.” This Yale community and public facing webinar will explore how the current war is affecting Ukraine’s forests, specifically how Russia’s artillery war has been affecting the radiation-contaminated Chornobyl Exclusion Zone and the Siversky Donets River ecosystem of Eastern Ukraine over the past year. The Chornobyl Exclusion Zone is a landscape of forests, wetlands, and depopulated communities contaminated by radiation after the nuclear power plant disaster of 1986. The Siversky Donets River is the longest river in eastern Ukraine and a longtime strategic line of transportation, water supply, and defense against Russian invasion.

This webinar will focus on the social-environmental history and present day effects of war and climate change on these forest-steppe ecosystems and the people that live there. Using compelling photos and cartographic materials, Milakovsky and Zibtsev will illustrate the current environmental degradation of Ukraine, place it in the context of these forest-steppe ecosystems’ transformation over the past few centuries, and demonstrate how climate change and the wars of 2014-2015 and 2022-present are significantly accelerating fragmentation, fire, and overall decline. The hope is to provide insights on forest management for social and forest resilience to war, fire, and past mis-management.

Watch the recording of this virtual event.


Brian Milakovsky ‘09 MF

Consultant, Specializing in economic development and resilience in Ukraine

Milakovsky studied forestry at the University of Maine and the Yale School of the Environment and worked in forest conservation in Ukraine and Russia from 2009-2015. After Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine he left and began working in humanitarian response and economic recovery in eastern Ukraine. After Russia’s second invasion and occupation of his home in Severodonetsk, he moved with his family to Latvia where we continues working on Ukrainian economic recovery, and forest ecology and management consulting.

Sergiy Zibstev

Professor, Department of Silviculture, National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine

Professor at the Department of Silviculture at the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine. Head of the Regional Eastern Europe Fire Monitoring Center (REEFMC). Fulbright Scholar at the Yale School of the Environment (2004-2005). Professor Zibtsev is an international expert in the ecology of radiation-contaminated forests and has been working many years with all aspects of the problem of landscape fire management, coordinating wildfire science projects and development of landscape fire policy in Ukraine. Much of his life’s work has been in the exclusion zones surrounding Chornobyl – site of the 1986 nuclear disaster.


Top: @RIA Novosti. Valery Melnikov.
Bottom left: Brian Milakosvky.
Bottom right: Sergiy Zibstev.