top of page
Anker 1

Artistic Resistance: Lithuanian Installation Sheds Light on Ecological Warfare in Ukraine
Pinar Doğantekin

Invasive Species" was first exhibited at the NATO Summit in Lithuania in 2023. © Denis Veja 


The installation Invasive Species was first exhibited at the NATO Summit in Lithuania in 2023. 

© Denis Veja

Close-up of the "Invasive Species" installation. © Denis Veja


Close-up of the Invasive Species installation. © Denis Veja

The ongoing Russian war of aggression in Ukraine is not only having a devastating impact on the human population but is also leading to unprecedented ecocide. A Lithuanian artists' collective wants to use its art to draw attention to the destruction of the environment.


The war against Ukraine could possibly be the first war in which environmental crimes are almost completely documented. Normally, armed conflicts focus almost exclusively on human issues. It remains a mystery how many trees go up in flames as a result of bombing, how much oil leaks into the ground from war machines and how many wild animals starve to death. Such details often remain unknown.


"Environmental warfare aims to destroy the enemy's livelihood"


A look at past wars gives an idea of the long-term consequences that ecosystems in Ukraine could experience as a result of the current situation and possible future conflicts. "During the First World War, entire landscapes were destroyed for decades by continuous bombardment with conventional artillery ammunition, some hills were even eroded by several meters. These former lunar landscapes and battlefields are so contaminated with arsenic, lead, zinc and other heavy metals from shells and ordnance that even more than 100 years later, only a few grasses still grow here”, explains Dr. Christian Kehrt, Professor for the History of Science and Technology at the Technical University of Braunschweig. According to Kehrt, there were efforts during the Cold War to research the artificial manipulation of rain and cloud formations and use it for military purposes. "The aim of environmental warfare is to destroy the enemy's livelihood", explains the expert. The use of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War is also a well-known and drastic example of a modern and devastating form of environmental warfare. Unfortunately, Russian warfare in Ukraine fits seamlessly into this form of warfare, too.


Dimensions of the environmental damage in the Ukraine war


The Ukrainian government estimates the environmental damage caused by the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam alone at almost 1.4 billion euros. The destruction of the dam caused tons of oil to flow into the Dnipro River and landmines to drift into the Black Sea. The ecocide caused by the dam disaster has too many dimensions to list them all individually. The commonly used term "negative impact" does not adequately capture the serious economic, humanitarian and ecological consequences of this unique war crime. There are several categories of serious and long-term environmental damage: loss of irrigation systems for farms, drying out of the landscape, loss of water supply and sanitation for cities and settlements, health problems related to cholera and other pollution-related diseases. And most importantly, massive habitat loss, long-term ecosystem degradation and the loss of numerous aquatic species and biodiversity, not only in the protected areas of the immediate river and estuary ecosystem, but also in the much larger areas associated with these ecosystems.


Monitoring and measuring environmental damage in war zones is extremely difficult. However, much of the monitoring can be done indirectly through satellite monitoring systems, many of which focus on changes in the environment. For example, NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS) has a number of satellites that focus on measuring land use, agricultural production, forest growth and associated diseases, and water quality, also during the war in Ukraine. But it's not just about the costs for Ukraine. Ecosystems have no borders. The consequences of these environmental disasters reach the whole world.


Installation “Invasive Species” visualizes the ecological consequences of occupation and ecocide


In order to make this complex topic accessible to people in a different way, the Lithuanian artist trio consisting of Agnė Stirnė, Oskaras Stirna and Eglė Plytnikaitė have created a thought-provoking installation. Entitled "Invasive Species", the project aims to raise awareness of the devastating effects of military actions on biodiversity and native vegetation, while also drawing attention to the long-term consequences for occupied territories.


The installation shows the Sosnowsky's hogweed, a highly poisonous invasive plant named after a Russian botanist, but also known as Stalin's grass or Stalin's revenge. ”This dangerous invasive plant, originally from the Caucasian mountains, was introduced to Lithuania, Ukraine and other countries occupied by Russia as a silage plant during the Second World War”, explains artist Agnė Stirnė. "However, Russian botanists did not foresee how invasive the plant would become once it was established in a warmer climate with much better growing conditions." The plant overwhelms and crowds out all other species growing nearby. “A Sosnowsky's head can produce over 100,000 seeds and is incredibly difficult to eradicate as it can regrow from a tiny piece of root”, explains Stirnė. The plant itself is on average 2.5 to 3 meters tall when fully grown, and these characteristics of the plant make it a dangerous occupier of nature. "A parallel between the Russian occupation and the invasiveness of Sosnowky is very vivid", says Stirnė.


The installation aims to transport the viewer to an environment that has been devastated by war-related ecocide. The artists used dried Sosnovsky plants, which they painted black to simulate burnt Ukrainian trees and land destroyed by bombs. The dried hogweed hangs from a structure, allowing it to interact with the wind. This concept mirrors similar elements of environmental warfare by imperialist states. From certain perspectives, it becomes difficult to tell where is up and down in the installation. "This concept parallels the battlefield, where it is difficult to understand where the ground ends and the sky begins”, describes artist Eglė Plytnikaitė.


"Currently, eight nature reserves and ten national parks in Ukraine are under Russian occupation”, says Plytnikaitė. The attack has reportedly affected 1.24 million hectares of environmental land, the equivalent of about 1.7 million soccer fields, with another 3 million hectares of forest devastated by the invasion, equivalent to 4.2 million soccer fields.

In addition, Russian warfare on Ukrainian territory has brought 880 plant species and 600 animals to the brink of extinction. "Sosnovsky's hogweed is practicing its form of ecocide by eradicating all plant species growing under it and becoming a fitting symbol of Russian aggression”, says Plytnikaitė.


Will Russia be charged with ecocide?


Russia has deliberately and shamelessly violated all norms of the civilized world and attacked the Ukrainian population and the environment in the most heinous way. In Ukraine, criminal liability for ecocide exists in the form of a prison sentence of eight to fifteen years for "massive destruction of flora or fauna, poisoning of the atmosphere or water resources, as well as other actions that can cause an environmental disaster" (Article 441 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). The destruction of the Kakhovka dam by the Russian armed forces is considered a clear case of ecocide. The question of whether Russia will be held responsible remains open. The jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) currently includes genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. In March 2023, the European Parliament voted in favor of including the term "ecocide" in EU law, driven by the Kachovka Dam disaster.




Opanasenko, Oleksandr, 2022. Analyse: Die ökologischen Folgen des russischen Angriffskrieges in der Ukraine. Ukraine-Analyse Nr. 288. Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung.

Visited: 09.01.2024


Stakhiv, Eugene / Demydenko, Andriy, 2023. Analyse: Ökozid: Die katastrophalen Folgen der Zerstörung des Kachowka-Staudamms. Ukraine-Analyse Nr. 288. Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung

Visited: 28.12.2023



Christian Kehrt is Professor of History of Science and Technology at the Technical University Braunschweig. He works in the fields of environmental history, military history, and the history of science and technology. 


Agnė Stirnė, Oskaras Stirna and Eglė Plytnikaitė are three Lithuanian artists shaping the art scene with their unique perspectives. Eglė excels in conceptual art and nature activism, Oskaras blends nature and technology in sculptural forms, while Agnė explores rare plants and artistic expressions with #experimentalbotanics. Together, they represent a fusion of conceptual art, spatial design, and experimental botany.


Pinar Doğantekin studied Media and Art Sciences in her Bachelor's degree at the University of Fine Arts in Braunschweig. Additionally, she pursued a Master's degree in "Culture of the Technoscientific World" in Braunschweig, engaging in discussions on political issues at the intersection of humanities, natural sciences, and technology. She works as a reporter in radio, as a podcast host, and writes for the stern magazine.


bottom of page