Ukraine brands Russia ‘terrorist state’ at top UN court over dam breach

Ukraine called Russia a “terrorist state” at the International Court of Justice [ICJ] on Tuesday, accusing it of destroying a major dam in what it said was a campaign of violence dating back years.

“Just today, Russia blew up a major dam located in Nova Kakhovka, causing significant civilian evacuations, and harsh ecological damages,” Ukraine’s representative Anton Korynevych told the top UN court.

“Russia’s actions are the actions of a terrorist state, an aggressor.” 

Korynevych was addressing judges at the ICJ in a case brought by Kyiv against Russia linked to Moscow’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and the arming of rebels in eastern Ukraine, in the years before Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Ukraine wants the world court to order Moscow to pay reparations for attacks in the region, including for the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 that was shot down by Russia-backed rebels on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew.

Korynevych also said that with Moscow unable to beat Ukraine on the battlefield, “it targets civilian infrastructure to try to freeze us into submission. 

Lawyers representing Moscow will present legal arguments on Thursday. Each side has another opportunity next week to present evidence.

Judges are expected to take months to issue a judgment. The case is one of several legal proceedings against Russia linked to Ukraine. 

EU chief calls destruction of dam a ‘war crime’

Western powers also blamed Russia for the damage to the Kakhovka dam, with EU chief Charles Michel calling it a “war crime.”

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the dam breach was “outrageous” and “puts thousands of civilians at risk and causes severe environmental damage.”

Russia however said the dam was partially destroyed by “multiple strikes” coming from Ukrainian forces.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the destruction was the result of a “deliberate sabotage by the Ukrainian side.”

The Soviet-era dam sits on the Dnipro river, which provides cooling water for the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

The flooding fuelled already existing fears for the safety of the Zaporizhzhia plant, under Russian control.

The plant is some 150 kilometres away from the damaged dam.

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