Maxar satellite images BEFORE damage to the Nova Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine. Please use: Satellite image (c) 2023 Maxar Technologies.

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WASHINGTON – An international team of investigators said in a new report Thursday that it is “highly likely that Russian forces deliberately destroyed” the Kakhovka Dam in southern Ukraine.

“We have determined that there is a high probability that the collapse of the dam was caused by pre-placed explosives placed at critical points in its structure,” explained Catriona Murdoch, a lawyer and expert on hunger-related crimes.

Murdoch, who was part of one of the first delegations to arrive at the site, added that the attack on the dam could constitute a war crime.

“Dams must not be attacked if the release of water would result in serious civilian casualties. Even valid military installations located on or near dams cannot be attacked if the impact would knowingly cause serious civilian casualties,” Murdoch said.

Both Russia and Ukraine blamed each other for the dam explosion.

The pre-dawn attack on the Russian-held dam unleashed the worst environmental disaster in Ukraine’s history since the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986. According to Ukrainian Interior Minister Igor Klymenko, more than 80 settlements in the Kherson region were flooded and at least 27 people died.

Yousuf Syed Khan, a senior lawyer at Global Rights Compliance who worked on the investigation, said the destruction of the dam had created a “horrible hunger crime” in the Kherson region.

“The consequences of this attack are undoubtedly huge, far-reaching and multi-generational as entire industries and livelihoods related to agribusiness have been severely affected,” Khan said.

A team of investigators made up of lawyers, military experts and researchers said Russian forces also targeted flood evacuation sites and restricted citizens from leaving areas with rising water.

The report was issued by the Mobile Justice Team, one of the components Atrocity Crimes Advisory Groupwhich is funded by the US State Department, the European Union and the British Foreign Office, Commonwealth and Development Office.

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