- By-products of nuclear weapons production caused permanent damage in southern Siberia, and in the Ural Mountains. The Soviet military tested nuclear weapons on the islands of Novaya Zemlya in the Arctic Ocean, which was their second testing site after Semey, Kazakhstan. Nuclear reactors and wastes were dumped into the Barents and Kara seas of the far north, and in far eastern Siberia. Dumping of nuclear wastes in the Sea of Japan continued until 1993. The disposal of nuclear submarines and nuclear waste is still a problematic issue. Although some have been decommissioned, many are still docked at Russian ports as a result of a lack of money and facilities for storing nuclear wastes. Moreover, fallout from the explosion at Ukraine’s Chernobyl’ nuclear power plant affected Russia primarily in Bryansk Oblast.
- Air pollution is especially a problem in the Urals and Kuznetsk (hazardous emissions from metal-processing plants) as well as in the Volga and Moscow regions. Russia's air is among the most polluted in the world, although its quality has been improving since the 1990s. Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Volgograd, as well as other major industrial and population centers, are the highest concentrations of air pollution. When industrial production declined, emissions of air pollutants from those sources also declined, although the amount of motor vehicles on the roads skyrocketed. Currently, vehicle emissions exceed industry emissions in most Russian cities.
- Water pollution is a serious problem in Russia. Obsolete and inefficient water treatment facilities, as well as a lack of funding, have caused heavy pollution, and also resulted in waterborne disease spread. Many Russian cities are not equipped with adequate sewage treatment plants. Lake Baikal was previously a target of environmental pollution from paper plants, but cleanup efforts since then have greatly reduced the ecological strain on the lake. The Volga River has been damaged through rash exploitation of hydroelectric power. Pollutants released into rivers have accumulated in lakes and seas with limited water exchange, including the Caspian Sea, the Sea of Azov, and the Black Sea. A toxic layer of hydrogen sulfide covers the Black Sea, due in part to organic compounds from agricultural byproducts and untreated sewage.
- Chemical fertilizers and airborne pollutants have contaminated some agricultural areas. Soil resources have also been adversely affected by mismanagement. Broad areas of land in southern Russia suffer from erosion. Wind erosion has affected the more arid parts of the North Caucasus, lower Volga River basin, and western Siberia.
- Airborne pollutants have caused damage to vegetation in many areas of Russia. Forests in more accessible parts of the country suffer from deforestation caused by extensive logging. Illegal logging is also widespread, especially in the north-west and in the Far East parts of Russia. Some large stands of undisturbed forests are protected in Russia’s extensive network of national reserves and parks. Adequate funding for park rangers and other personnel is lacking, however, and poaching of endangered animals such as the Siberian tiger has increased as a result. Inefficient logging and clearcutting strategies result in 40% of harvested trees never being used, and the implementation of forest protection policies has been slow. About 3.1% of Russia's total land area was protected as of 2001. The same year, there were 31 mammal species, 38 bird species, and 129 species of plants listed as threatened. Endangered species include Atlantic sturgeon, beluga, crested shelduck, Amur leopard, Siberian tiger, Mediterranean monk seal, Wrangel lemming, and the Oriental stork. The great auk, Palla's cormorant, and Steller's sea cow have become extinct.
- Climate change will prove to have profound impacts on Russia’s environment, economy and society. Environmental concerns include fresh water scarcity (due in part to irrational use of water and fresh water waste), thawing of permafrost impacting natural ecosystems, and melting of Arctic glaciers. Some of the most vulnerable sectors involve agriculture, forestry, water supply systems, buildings and engineering constructions, transportation infrastructure in the permafrost zones, etc.
The predominant type of attitude towards the environment in Russia is characterised by the adaptation of environmental behaviour to modern life and a distancing of most of the population from participating in solving ecological problems. However, environmental NGOs are active campaigners. The Russian environmental movement appears to be well entrenched, with environmental organisations working in each of Russia’s eighty-nine constituent regions and actively addressing issues from nuclear safety to protection of local parks. The methods of civil society’s work to sustain the environment include advocacy, practical actions to clean environment, resolutions and open letters.