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Image by James Wiseman

Submerged: Commemorating the Destruction of the Kakhovka Dam

In the early hours of June 6, 2023, the Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine was destroyed. This catastrophe sent a surge of water downstream, flooding and destroying nearby settlements. The sudden flooding forced residents to flee, displacing thousands from their homes and causing numerous casualties.

The flooding ruined the livelihoods of entire communities that relied on the dam for irrigation and recreation. Its destruction threatens agriculture, exports, and other sectors of the economy. Communities were left without clean water, leaving them to scramble for alternative sources. In addition, entire ecosystems were decimated by the flooding, and the survival of many species is threatened. The consequences of the dam’s intentional destruction, which, as we describe, was likely the result of Russian aggression, will be felt for years to come.

Local communities continue to grapple with the aftermath of the Kakhovka Dam destruction. Nonetheless, in a situation already fraught with the uncertainty of war, Ukrainians remain optimistic about starting anew and rebuilding what was lost.

To commemorate the first anniversary of the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam, Truth Hounds (TH) and Project Expedite Justice (PEJ) held an event to discuss the findings of a comprehensive report on the causes and aftermath of the dam explosion. The organizations also called on the International Criminal Court to acknowledge the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam as an environmental war crime.

This unique report, SUBMERGED: Study of the Destruction of the Kakhovka Dam and Its Impacts on Ecosystems, Agrarians, Other Civilians, and International Justice, explores various aspects of the dam's destruction. It includes evidence-based findings on the potential war crimes committed and highlights the disproportionate damage caused relative to the minor military objectives pursued.

The report offers legal analyses on holding perpetrators accountable, examines the economic and agricultural consequences of the dam’s destruction to the region, and assesses the environmental impact on water resources, biodiversity, and soil health. Additionally, it addresses the human costs of the disaster, including loss of life, displacement, health risks, and the destruction of iconic cultural sites.

"The report's findings are crucial for understanding the incident and holding those responsible accountable. The true scope of the disaster extends far beyond the initial flooding: over 600 square kilometers submerged, displacing thousands across more than 80 settlements. Homes, infrastructure, and agriculture have suffered immense damage," explains TH Legal Counsel Volodymyr Hryshko. "The environmental consequences are equally concerning. Cultural sites in the region have also suffered. That is why the report comprehensively examines the situation and will delve into the potential classification of the dam's destruction as a war crime under the Rome Statute. It examines if the potential environmental damage was ‘excessive’ compared to the military advantage expected.”

Watch the event to learn more here, and read the report here.


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