Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
June 6, 2023
Thank you, Mr. President. And Under-Secretary-General Griffiths, thank you for your briefing.
Today, we have seen yet another tragic outcome of Russia’s unprovoked, full-scale invasion of Ukraine. It is deeply alarming and concerning the Kakhovka Dam, a crucial hydroelectric plant on the Dnipro River, was destroyed. Its destruction has caused devastating floods and impacted the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians along the river. We are in close touch with Ukrainian authorities on providing assistance to the many civilians displaced and forced to flee their homes for safety. And we will continue to work with humanitarian partners on the ground to provide assistance.
We regret the Council must meet on an urgent basis to discuss the destruction of the dam, which is yet another casualty in Russia’s brutal, full-scale invasion of Ukraine. I want to make absolutely clear: It was Russia that started this war, it was Russia that occupied this area of Ukraine, and it was Russian forces that took over the dam illegally last year and have been occupying ever since.
To be clear: Deliberate attacks on civilian objects are prohibited by the law of war. As a party to Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, Russia has an obligation not to attack works or installations containing “dangerous forces, including dams,” if such an attack may cause the release of dangerous forces and severe losses among the civilian population. The international community is again confronted with the devastation, immeasurable human toll, and catastrophic damage to Ukraine’s critical infrastructure caused by Russia’s illegal war.
The dam’s destruction risks massive ecological devastation, as Ukraine’s already badly damaged critical infrastructure must once again absorb a devastating blow. Those downstream are under flood risk. The water supply to Southern Ukraine, including Crimea, is at risk. Agricultural lands will likely also be impacted, further disrupting food production and impacting global food security.
The dam’s destruction undermines the stability of Ukraine’s power supply and could create additional challenges to maintaining safety in and around the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant. Although we understand the dam’s destruction poses no immediate risk to the nuclear safety of the plant in the short term, we reiterate the IAEA Director-General’s call: Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant’s cooling pond, which draws water from the dam’s reservoir, must maintain its integrity and access to water, which is essential for cooling the reactors and their spent fuel. We call on Russia to reconnect the sensors that automatically report data to Ukraine’s civilian regulators, and to allow the IAEA to ensure the international community has reliable information on any radioactivity around the plant.
While investigations are underway, I will say again: The latest humanitarian, agricultural, energy, and environmental crisis would not even exist had Russia not launched its brutal war against Ukraine. Russia’s full-scale invasion continues to put innocent lives at risk and decimates the infrastructure, livelihoods, and safety of the Ukrainian people.
The United States will continue to work with the international community to hold Russia to account for its aggression. We will continue to support Ukraine to defend itself in the face of the Kremlin’s brutality. The way forward is clear: Russia must withdraw its troops from Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. It must end this war. And it must end the untold human suffering it has wrought.
Thank you, Mr. President.