Dutch PM says blowing up Ukraine’s dam is a war crime

June 6, 2023  –THE HAGUE – Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he is “absolutely” operating under the assumption that Russia was responsible for blowing up a dam in the south of Ukraine. “This is a violation of international humanitarian law, which directly targets non-military, civilian infrastructure.” This makes it “a real war crime,” Rutte said before a debate in parliament regarding the separate issue of gas extraction in Groningen. 

Russia has denied it was involved in the dam’s destruction, and blamed Ukraine for the incident. There is “no reason at all” to suspect that Ukraine is behind the attack, Rutte said. “They have no motive.” 

Tens of thousands of people are potentially at risk, Rutte said. The prime minister said he hopes Ukraine is able to “evacuate the necessary areas.” If Ukraine needs help now that the Nova Kakovka dam has been destroyed, “we will of course provide all the help that is requested,” Rutte stressed. Ukraine has not yet asked for assistance. 

Earlier Tuesday afternoon, Foreign Affairs Minister Wopke Hoekstra also condemned the act of blowing up the dam. Hoekstra called it a “deliberate and reckless act.” The dam is located in Russian-occupied territory. 

The destruction of the Kakovka dam is the “largest man-made environmental disaster in Europe in decades,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who made a virtual appearance at a security conference in Bratislava.

Zelenskyy compared the destruction of the important dam to the use of a weapon of mass destruction. Due to the collapse of the dam, an enormous amount of water is flowing into the war zone in Ukraine. 

Russia and Ukraine hold each other responsible for the situation. The Ukrainian president denied allegations by the Kremlin that Ukraine itself is behind the attack on the dam. “Russia has controlled the Kakovka dam and power plant for more than a year,” Zelenskyy said, according to his office. “And it’s physically impossible to destroy it from the outside with an artillery strike.” According to the Ukrainian army, the Russians are trying to prevent river crossings by Ukrainian soldiers. 

Russia said Ukraine sabotaged the dam to divert attention from military concerns, and to damage Crimea’s water supply. 

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