A team of international legal experts assisting Ukraine’s Office of the Prosecutor General said it is “highly likely” the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine’s Kherson region was caused by Russia, according to the preliminary findings of their investigation released on Friday.
The experts with human rights law firm Global Rights Compliance said there is a “high probability” the collapse of the dam on June 6 “was caused by pre-emplaced explosives positioned at critical points within the dam’s structure.”
The experts visited affected areas in the Kherson region on Saturday and Sunday along with Ukrainian prosecutors and representatives from the International Criminal Court.
“The evidence and analysis of the information available – which includes seismic sensors and discussions with top demolition experts – indicates that there is a high probability the destruction was caused by pre-emplaced explosives positioned at critical points within the dam’s structure,” according to a news release, citing the Starvation Mobile Justice Team from Global Rights Compliance.
The experts dismissed the theory that the dam’s collapse could have been caused by mismanagement of the facility, saying it is “highly unlikely that mismanagement alone would explain such catastrophic destruction,” the news release said.
The team noted that those conducting the attack or overseeing the management of the dam would require access or control of the site, which is occupied by Russia.
British barrister Catriona Murdoch, who headed the mobile justice team, said in a statement: “Information available to Global Rights Compliance and verified with a leading Open-Source Intelligence provider, indicates that at this stage, it is highly likely Russian forces deliberately destroyed the dam."
Under international humanitarian law, dams are presumed to be civilian in nature. “Civilians living near the Kakhovka Dam were not warned of an impending attack and were even shelled as they attempted to evacuate flooded areas,” Murdoch said.
Yousuf Syed Khan, Global Rights Compliance’s senior lawyer supporting the investigation, said, “What we documented in Kherson is a horrific starvation crime. The reverberating effects of this attack are no doubt immense, far-reaching, and multigenerational, as entire industries and livelihoods related to agribusiness have been severely affected.
“The devastation wrought by this disaster cannot be overstated and will undoubtedly be felt for years to come,” he said.
The collapse of the dam is one of the biggest industrial and ecological disasters in Europe in decades. The catastrophe has destroyed entire villages, flooded farmland, deprived tens of thousands of people of power and clean water, and caused massive environmental damage.
Russia has denied any involvement in the disaster and in turn accused Ukraine of destroying the dam, without providing evidence.