Russia launches felony ecocide case over Crimea’s water blockade
Russian investigators have opened a felony case on charges of ecocide over Ukraine’s decision to cut off water deliveries to Crimea after Moscow annexed the peninsula in 2014.
On August 25, the Russian Investigative Committee’s Central Investigation Department announced the launch of a probe against “unidentified individuals, located on the territory of Ukraine and opposing the reunification of Crimea with Russia.”
According to the investigators, these unidentified suspects “decided to cause damage to the economic, social, and environmental conditions of the Crimean Peninsula by blocking the North Crimean Canal.” The statement specifies that the supply of water from the Dnipro River has been stopped since April 26, 2014, as a result of the construction of a dam in Ukraine’s Kherson region.
The Investigative Committee maintains that the suspension of freshwater supplies has negatively affected agricultural lands, increased salt levels in the Syvash Gulf, and led to the decline of endangered animal populations. The canal’s closure has also impacted the quality of drinking water, the Investigative Committee says.
Russian Criminal Code Article 358 defines ecocide as the mass destruction of animals and plants, the contamination of the air or water, as well as other actions that can cause an ecological catastrophe. This is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. According to Mediazona, there are no previous reports of a felony ecocide case in Russia.
In late July, Russia filed a complaint against Ukraine with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), marking its first-ever interstate claim. Moscow’s grievances against Kyiv included alleged responsibility for Crimea’s water blockade, the MH17 plane crash, and civilian casualties resulting from the war in eastern Ukraine.
Prior to 2014, nearly 85 percent of Crimea’s water came from the Dnipro River via the North Crimean Canal.