Russia is Primarily Responsible for Causing Catastrophe

This is a catastrophe that could not have happened without the Russian invasion and occupation. Whatever the direct cause, it is obvious that Russia is primarily responsible for the catastrophe.

A dam at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant in southern Ukraine, which is under Russian military occupation, has collapsed.

The volume of water in the Dnipro river surged, causing flooding in the lower reaches of the river. Tens of thousands of people were affected, and there are concerns that the number of casualties will increase. It is also inevitable that the surrounding areas will suffer long-term damage due to the loss of electricity and water resources caused by the dam collapse.

To prevent such a serious situation from taking place, the Geneva Conventions governing war crimes have for nearly 50 years banned the targeting of dams and nuclear power plants, as such attacks cause serious losses to civilians.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of deliberately destroying the dam in order to use the flood as a weapon. If the claim is true, it is an egregious war crime.

The Russian side refutes this claim, saying that it was sabotage by Ukraine, but Moscow has not provided any specific evidence. It is difficult to believe that Ukraine attacked the dam without regard for the enormous damage it could cause to its own people and territory.

It has also been pointed out that the destruction may not have been intentional, but the dam could have collapsed due to a loss of strength. If so, the Russian military cannot evade responsibility for causing the catastrophe by not properly managing the operations of the dam and not appropriately adjusting the water level.

The fact that Russia has left the management of critical infrastructure facilities in the occupied zone entirely to its military personnel and has put them at risk is also true of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, about 120 kilometers from the dam.

The international community has demanded that the areas surrounding dams and nuclear power plants should be demilitarized and placed under international control. However, Russia has refused to accept this demand.

It is important for the International Criminal Court and U.N. organizations to enter the areas surrounding the collapsed dam and thoroughly investigate the cause and other situations of the catastrophe. A system must be put in place to provide humanitarian assistance for flood victims.

The operations of all reactors at the Zaporizhzhia plant have been halted, but cooling water for the nuclear fuel is being drawn from the dam’s reservoir. The International Atomic Energy Agency has stated that there is no danger of the cooling system stopping at the current stage. It is hoped that an alternative water source will be quickly secured in case of an emergency.

This situation occurred as Ukraine is preparing for a large-scale counteroffensive. Unless Ukraine can make the Russian military withdraw from the country and regain lost territory, it will always be exposed to this kind of danger.

The international community must unite and strengthen its support to ensure that the Ukrainian military’s counteroffensive will be successful.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 8, 2023)