AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The collapse of the Kakhovka Dam in southern Ukraine was caused by Russian explosives, a team of legal experts assisting Ukrainian prosecutors in their investigation said in preliminary findings published on Friday. .
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused Ukraine of destroying the Kakhovka Dam as a Western-backed tactic to escalate the conflict.
Ukraine is investigating the explosion as a war crime and possibly criminal environmental destruction or “ecocide”.
The vast Soviet-era Kakhovka hydroelectric dam, which has been under Russian control since the invasion on February 24, was breached in the early hours of June 6, releasing floodwaters across a wide swath of the battlefield in southern Ukraine, devastating Agricultural lands cut off the water supply for a large part of the population.
Experts from the international human rights law firm Global Rights Compliance, which is carrying out efforts supporting accountability for atrocities in Ukraine, visited the Kherson region from June 10-11 with Ukraine’s attorney general and a team from the International Criminal Court.
“The evidence and analysis of available information—which includes earthquake sensors and discussions with leading demolition experts—suggest that there is a high probability that the destruction was caused by explosives pre-placed at critical points within the dam structure,” summarizing the initial findings of the law firm team seen. by Reuters.
Senior lawyer Yousef Syed Khan at Global Rights Compliance, who participated in the field mission to Kherson, said that the discovery by the Russian side of the dam being blown up with pre-made explosives by the Russian side “is an determination of 80% and above.”
He said in an interview that the findings are based not only on seismic sensors and one of the leading open source intelligence providers, but also on attack patterns and other attacks that we have documented. This included previous attacks on critical water infrastructure, including facilities and pipelines, he said.
They rejected the theory that the catastrophic breach of the dam could have been caused by mismanagement alone.
Khan said the destruction of the dam and its impact on the Kakhovka Reservoir and the surrounding area created conditions that investigators said could have constituted a crime of starvation by targeting “something indispensable to the survival of the civilian population”.
The attack may form part of a broader crime against humanity, but the group has yet to make that decision.
British barrister Catriona Murdoch, who led the Mobile Justice Team investigation, said in a statement that deliberately attacking the dam could constitute a war crime under international humanitarian law because it is presumed to be civilian in nature, unless there was a legitimate military target.
“Even in the highly unlikely scenario the dam, or indeed the immediate area, constituted a valid military target proportional to the evisceration of the dam, it would still be highly protected under international humanitarian law,” she said.
The International Criminal Court, the world’s permanent court for war crimes, is also investigating attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure, which may have violated international law.
(Reporting by Anthony Deutch) Editing by Philippa Fletcher
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