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War in Ukraine: “The destruction of the Kakhovka dam marks a turning point in the wars of the 21st century”


Dnce the beginning of the Russian intervention in Ukraine, the Kakhovka dam [sud du pays] had become hostage to a war in which installations vital to civilian populations (power stations, drinking water stations, hospitals, etc.) are, without distinction from military sites, targets of strikes, in complete violation of international law .

This critical infrastructure, essential to life since it contributed massively to the hydroelectric generation and water supply capacities of southern Ukraine, as well as to the cooling of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, was the subject of irreparable destruction. Their consequences will be immense, both from a humanitarian, ecological, agricultural and economic point of view.

The kinetics of flooding which gradually inundates the ground will create irreparable damage to the environment, this for several decades due to chemical and pyrotechnic pollution [matières explosives, obus…] soils, due to fuel tanks, mines and unexploded ordnance that are carried away by the waters.

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It is the fauna, the flora, the fertile lands of this region of Ukraine, as well as the ecosystems of the bodies of water and rivers, as well as the marine environment of the Black Sea into which the Dnieper flows, which will be severely affected. The quality of groundwater in the aquifers, as well as on the surface, will also be particularly degraded, making it very difficult to supply water to the populations on a long-term basis.

“After me, the deluge”

The Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, is therefore right to speak of“ecocide”. He could have added that the destruction of the Kakhovka dam represents a further violation of the articles of the Geneva Convention of August 12, 1949, relative to the protection of civilian populations in time of war, which is very strict on the prohibition of destruction civil installations in its article 53. Additional protocol II to the Geneva conventions of 1977 is also literally flouted in its article 15, which affirms the need for absolute protection of installations which present a risk for populations, such as “dams, dykes and nuclear power plants”.

Finally, what happened on this symbolic date of June 6 represents a turning point in the wars of the 21e century, and particularly in the high-intensity armed conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

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Such a targeted and deliberate act, and on such a scale, had not occurred since the Second World War, when mass bombardments targeted hydraulic works with the aim of drowning the adversary’s economic potential by provoking maximum material and human damage. This was the strategy of Dambusters (“Dam Busters”) of 617 Squadron of the Royal Air Force, whose motto has remained since – written in French – “After me, the deluge” with the rupture of a hydraulic work as its emblem. The bombing of the Möhne and Eder dams in 1943 caused the discharge of nearly 330 million cubic meters of water in the western Ruhr area. Up to about 80 km downstream, houses, mines, factories, railways and bridges were completely destroyed.

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