The war in Ukraine has become more dangerous than ever. Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric power station was damaged in an attack. Kyiv and Moscow are trading blames and the people in the region are sitting in the middle of a disaster that may change their lives forever. Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric power station is a critical civilian site that supplies power to farmland and supplies cool water to a nearby nuclear power plant. Attacking like this is a severe act and may be seen as a type of war crime. While the governments around the world a setting pointing fingers at you ever pull the trigger on the attack the people of the region are in need of aid and are being evacuated because of dangerous toxins in the water. The people of Ukraine and Russia need their governments to find a peaceful way to resolve the differences. It is the normal everyday people that are suffering while our leadership sits and debates. The military is not what is needed these people need the fighting to stop and the war to end. It is the average person who lives in fear of the next bomb to fall.
Secretary-General on UKRAINE
This morning, you saw the Secretary-General say that we have all seen the tragic images coming out today of the monumental humanitarian, economic and ecological catastrophe in the Kherson region in Ukraine. He said that the UN has no access to independent information on the circumstances that led to the destruction at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam.
But one thing is clear, the Secretary-General pointed out: this is another devastating consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, adding that we are seeing the effects in the city of Kherson, the town of Nova Kakhovka and 80 other towns and villages along the Dnipro river.
Our humanitarian colleagues are telling us that Ukrainian authorities are supporting the evacuation of some 16,000 people estimated to be directly impacted by the flood, arranging emergency buses and train evacuations.
Those evacuating are likely to go to neighbouring Mykolaiv and Odesa, in the south of the country. Other regions stand ready to receive people as well we are told.
Our humanitarian colleagues say that the scope and impact of the destruction of the Dam and the depletion of the Kakhovka Reservoir, which is formed by the Dam, is under assessment but are projected to have severe and longer-term consequences on the humanitarian situation in the area. They warn that flooding and fast-moving water can move mines and explosive ordnance to new areas which previously had been deemed safe, thus putting more people in danger.
Emergency humanitarian response is underway to provide urgent assistance to the over 16,000 people affected by flooding. That includes water supply, cash assistance, legal and psychosocial support. Humanitarians have also deployed multidisciplinary mobile teams to train and bus stations across the region that are receiving people evacuated from the areas. I do understand that there will be a Security Council meeting on this at 4 p.m. this afternoon. I do expect a briefer from the Secretariat. Who that person will be is not yet clear, but hopefully will be clear before 4 p.m.
Security Council Meeting on The Attack at Kakhovka dam
Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator — stressing that immediate humanitarian needs are expected to rise as floodwaters move — asserted: “Today’s news means the plight of the people in Ukraine is set to get even worse.” So far, Ukrainian authorities have reported that at least 40 settlements in Kherson are flooded partially, if not fully. Such sustained flooding will disrupt farming activities and damage both livestock and fisheries — “a massive blow” to an already significantly damaged food production sector. Fast-moving water will also shift projectiles to areas previously assessed as safe, thereby placing people in in further and unpredictable danger from mine and explosive ordinance contamination. Moreover, the dam’s destruction may negatively affect electricity generation and in turn the safety of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant downstream.
In response, the United Nations and humanitarian organizations have already stepped up their operations to address the impacts, including by providing urgent assistance to over 16,000 affected people. Multidisciplinary mobile teams have been deployed to train and bus stations across Kherson oblast as cities in the west are preparing to receive evacuees. For its part, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is closely monitoring the situation at Zaporizhzhia and has reported no immediate threat. While the United Nations has no access to independent information on the circumstances leading to the dam’s destruction, international law is nevertheless very clear: installations containing dangerous forces must receive special protection precisely because of their destruction’s impacts on civilian populations.
Reaching all those who have been affected will not be easy nor straightforward, he underlined. Nevertheless, the United Nations is ready to do everything it can. “The people of Ukraine have shown extraordinary resilience — our urgent humanitarian task is to continue to help them to survive and then to be safe and then to get a future,” he stressed.
In the ensuing debate, many speakers deplored the dam’s destruction as they underlined its humanitarian and environmental impacts, with some voicing particular concern over the safety and security of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant — the largest nuclear power station in Europe. Underscoring the need for accountability, they also reiterated their call on the Russian Federation to completely, immediately and unconditionally withdraw its forces from Ukraine.
Warning from Security Council Members
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil), stating that evacuation efforts in areas downstream of the Dnipro River are a priority, urged the parties to the conflict to facilitate access for rescue teams and humanitarian workers. He also expressed concern over the risks the incident poses to the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, observing that the possibility of the Nova Kakhovka dam’s rupture affecting the supply of water for cooling reactors “is a reminder of how close we may be to a nuclear catastrophe”. He therefore encouraged the parties to refrain from actions that could lead to such a scenario and to increase their engagement with IAEA to ensure the safety of nuclear facilities. Further, it is essential to investigate the incident and hold those involved accountable. Noting that the rupture of the dam would not have occurred if the Russian Federation and Ukraine were at peace, he underscored that prolonged hostilities are likely to lead to further tragedies in the future. Several Member States have approached the parties in attempts to engage them in the pursuit of peace, he recalled, expressing hope that such initiatives will result in the resumption of dialogue and the cessation of hostilities “so that reconstruction can finally begin”.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta) pointed out that this attack against Ukraine’s critical civilian infrastructure is yet another flagrant violation of international law and international humanitarian law. The attack has also brought with it irreversible environmental consequences, with Ukraine’s river being contaminated with 150 tons of industrial lubricant. As well, dropping water levels are affecting access to one of the main critical cooling sources for the reactors at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant — violating in every way possible IAEA’s five principles for ensuring nuclear safety and security. Underlining that civilians and civilian infrastructure are not a target, she stressed that intentional targeting constitutes a war crime. Since accountability must be the Council’s priority, the perpetrators of such crimes must be held accountable in line with international law. In the meantime, Malta will continue to support all efforts to address the consequences of Moscow’s aggression. She urged the Russian Federation to immediately cease all hostilities and unconditionally, completely and immediately withdraw all its forces and military equipment from Ukraine. Her Government continues to express its unequivocal support to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and deplores any behaviour escalating the conflict further, she added.
DOMINGOS ESTÊVÃO FERNANDES (Mozambique) warned of the global repercussion of the looming environmental disaster, particularly on populations and ecosystems in the immediate vicinity of the hydro dam and on an already strained global food and grain supply chain. The deliberate weaponization and targeting of civilian infrastructure in times of war is a violation of international humanitarian law, he stressed, adding that parties must be held accountable for these acts. Recalling that his country warned last week against the risk of misunderstandings, miscalculations and collateral damages, ever present in the conflict, he once again called for the immediate cessation of hostilities and the urgent return to direct negotiations between the parties.
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