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A New Hazard in Ukraine

A flooded area after the Nova Kakhovka dam breached, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine.

There is no doubt that the collapse of the Kakhovka Dam would not have happened if Russia had not attacked Ukraine.

A New Hazard in Ukraine
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On June 6, the Kakhovka dam in Ukraine’s Kherson Oblast was breached and its hydroelectric power plant, destroyed. The dam had been seized by Russian troops soon after the invasion of Ukraine began and is to this day under Russian control. And although it is not yet clear if the collapse was caused by structural failure or sabotage, there is no doubt that the collapse of the dam would not have happened if Russia had not attacked Ukraine.

“It was Russia that started this war, it was Russia that occupied this area of Ukraine, and it was Russian forces that took over the dam illegally last year and have been occupying ever since,” said U.S. Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs Robert Wood.

“Deliberate attacks on civilian objects are prohibited by the law of war. As a party to Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, Russia has an obligation not to attack works or installations containing 'dangerous forces, including dams,' if such an attack may cause the release of dangerous forces and severe losses among the civilian population,” he said.

Indeed, in the words of Martin Griffiths, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, the destruction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant dam is one of the most significant incidents of damage to civilian infrastructure since the start of the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine.

Furthermore, “The dam’s destruction undermines the stability of Ukraine’s power supply and could create additional challenges to maintaining safety in and around the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant,” said Ambassador Wood.

“[The] Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant’s cooling pond, which draws water from the dam’s reservoir, must maintain its integrity and access to water, which is essential for cooling the reactors and their spent fuel,” he said. “We call on Russia to reconnect the sensors that automatically report data to Ukraine’s civilian regulators, and to allow the IAEA to ensure the international community has reliable information on any radioactivity around the plant.”

“The United States will continue to work with the international community to hold Russia to account for its aggression. We will continue to support Ukraine to defend itself in the face of the Kremlin’s brutality,” said Ambassador Wood. “The way forward is clear: Russia must withdraw its troops from Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. It must end this war. And it must end the untold human suffering it has wrought.”