The destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant and dam is a striking violation of the Geneva Conventions and one of the most brutal war crimes against the environment, population and climate committed by fossil-fuelled Russian state terrorists. This is ecocide.
This destruction represents a massive ecological catastrophe with ramifications which will be suffered by the people and environment of Ukraine, and beyond its borders, for years to come. This includes a serious risk that this tragedy could precipitate a nuclear catastrophe at Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant, the devastating consequences of which would be felt not only in Ukraine, but across Europe and around the world.
This is a deliberate act of ecocide. This is what the climate and ecological emergency, externally fossil-fuelled aggression and energy insecurity look like: severe environmental damage, increased emissions from the temporary or extended use of fossil fuels to replace the destroyed hydropower capacity, cities flooded, people drowned and massive displacement for those who survive.
As contaminated water floods vast swaths of Ukraine and flows into the Black Sea, Russian troops ruthlessly bombard survivors and previously planted mines lurk in the water. Meanwhile, victims residing in Russian-occupied settlements are dying, deprived of any evacuation assistance for over three days, without water and food. Thousands of houses are underwater. This is not only an unprecedented ecological man-made disaster, but also a humanitarian collapse, caused by Russia’s ongoing war of aggression.
Russia’s intentional attack on a major dam capable of unleashing dangerous forces is a clear and egregious violation of international law. But it is also evidence of the urgent need to recognize and prosecute ecocide as an internationally recognised crime against humanity and for international bodies to effectively hold offenders responsible for that crime as they do in cases involving genocide, war crimes and other crimes of aggression outlined in the Rome Statute.
Russia bears sole responsibility for over 90,000 registered war crimes committed against innocent Ukrainian people, our environment and the planet’s climate. Those responsible for these crimes must answer for their acts before an International tribunal. And the Russian Federation must be held accountable for its violations of international law and the damages arising as a result. An effective international mechanism is fundamental to compensate for the damage perpetrated on the environment, people and climate.
What is needed immediately is practical aid and expertise for Ukraine to investigate and document the consequences of this war crime provided by international environmental bodies, organizations and institutions to collect as much evidence as possible as the war ensues.
- Investigation and evidence gathering must begin immediately to ensure those responsible for the attack on Kakhovka are prosecuted for violations of the Geneva Convention and other relevant international laws.
- Ecocide must become an international crime. We demand the enactment of an effective and real mechanism of responsibility and accountability for those whose conduct causes significant damage to the environment through war and in any conflict zones.
- An immediate cease to any funding of Russia’s war of aggression through any form of trade, while directing all frozen Russian assets and profits originating from collaboration with Russia, including fossil fuel profits, to restore the Ukrainian environment and rebuild the country on clean energy, accompanied by a formal process of reparations and compensation for damage once the war is over.
We cannot continue to exist in a world in which natural resources are used as weapons of mass destruction, and where dangerous forces are recklessly unleashed onto civilian populations and the environment, as was the case with the destruction of Kakhovska dam. Russia’s war of aggression funded by fossil fuels represents dire threats to all humanity, not just one country. This will be evident in an upcoming consequent spike in food prices and affecting an already aggravated climate crisis and global cost of living crisis.
This is an urgent call not just to halt the most catastrophic consequences of ecocide in Ukraine, but also in every corner of Earth. We see crimes of ecocide committed in hundreds of places on the planet, which remain unnoticed or, what is worse, ignored.
Ecocide anywhere is a threat for the planet everywhere, and it cannot continue to be even remotely acceptable and a subject to impunity. There is a clear need now for the recognition and codification of an international law against the crime of Ecocide, voiced in the undersigned demand for work to be begun by international leaders to create such a law, and develop mechanisms which will hold perpetrators accountable.