Ukraine 5AM Coalition sees the signs of a war crime in the explosion at the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant (HPP) on the night of June 6, 2023, all the circumstances of which have yet to be established. However, it is already obvious that those who committed this crime could not fail to be aware of the devastating consequences of such a step.
The available photo and video materials testifying to the scale of damage to the dam confirm the version that the dam was blown up using explosives. Missile fire could not cause such an instant effect and the formation of a large hole. Given Russia’s control over the hydroelectric power plant and reports about its mining dating back to October 2022, it now seems highly likely that the explosion was the result of a deliberate detonation of explosives planted by the Russian Federation.
Dams and dykes are among the objects with one of the highest levels of legal protection defined by international humanitarian law (IHL). Such objects, together with nuclear power plants, are called works and installations containing dangerous forces.
Blowing up a spillway dam of the Kakhovka HPP is a serious violation of the prohibition established by Art. 56 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts. This rule prohibits attacks on works and installations containing dangerous forces (dams, dykes and nuclear electrical generating stations) even where these objects are military objectives, if such attack may cause the release of dangerous forces and consequent severe losses among the civilian population.
Such illegal actions are serious violations of a significant number of conventional and customary norms of international humanitarian law and are definitely a war crime. Blowing up the Kakhovka HPP once again confirms the barbaric and criminal nature of the war waged by the Russian Federation.
Blowing up the HPP is almost the only case in the history of international criminal justice that can be classified under Art. 8 (2)(b)(iv) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: “Intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated.”
It is currently difficult to predict the results of the Kakhovka HPP explosion, all the negative and tragic consequences for Kherson region and the whole of Ukraine. The flooding of a large area as a result of the Kakhovka HPP spillway dam explosion will deprive the residents of Kherson region and temporarily occupied Crimea of drinking water. In addition, it poses a threat of flooding and destruction to dozens of settlements, to the operation of the Zaporizhzhia NPP. Such a large-scale environmental disaster can be further classified as ecocide.
Blowing up the Kakhovka HPP by the Russian military once again indicates Russia’s complete disregard for its international obligations, international humanitarian law, which has become the established policy of the Russian Federation, a state that terrorizes the civilian population and carries out a genocidal policy against the Ukrainian people.
Ukraine 5AM Coalition underscored that only the de-occupation of all territories of Ukraine will to put an end to massive violations of international humanitarian law, human rights, and the barbaric destruction of the environment which is carried out as a result of Russian aggression.
We call on the world to take measures to deprive Russia of its influence in the UN Security Council and other international organizations.
Both the immediate perpetrators and the higher military-political leadership of the Russian Federation must be held to account for the crime of blowing up the Kakhovka HPP and other war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine. Ukraine 5AM Coalition member organizations are constantly working on this and are ready to provide all documented data to the International Criminal Court and other institutions investigating violations of IHL in Ukraine.
Blowing up the Kakhovka HPP and other environmental crimes committed by Russia in the territory of Ukraine should push the international community to criminalize ecocide as the fifth crime over which the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction.
Ukraine 5AM Coalition began its work on February 25, 2022, the next day after the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine started. Today, the Coalition unites 34 NGOs and four individual experts. They combined their efforts to systematically document war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the Russian armed aggression against Ukraine. The Coalition is also engaged in the protection of victims of the Russian-Ukrainian war through the existing state and international mechanisms of justice. These efforts are aimed at achieving justice by holding the ruling elite of the Russian Federation to account for the crime of aggression against Ukraine.