Statement by the Republic of Latvia on behalf of the Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania 

at the UN Security Council Meeting on: “Maintenance of Peace and Security of Ukraine”

6 June 2023

New York


Madam Chair,

I am speaking on behalf of the Baltic states –Estonia, Lithuania and my own country Latvia.

We thank USG Martin Griffiths for his briefing.

Just two weeks ago we gathered here for the annual Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians but sadly today we are here to condemn in the strongest terms another deliberate attack on civilians and civilian infrastructure by the Russian Federation, namely the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam in the Kherson region of Ukraine. It’s another piece in the chain of war crimes committed by Russia.

The Nova Kakhovka dam has been under the occupation of the Russian Federation since it started the unjustified and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine. Russia has a track record of violating international humanitarian law and committing countless war crimes, including attacks against civilians and critical civilian infrastructure. Such an irresponsible and barbaric act as the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam has prompted the displacement of thousands of civilians, creating another humanitarian crisis and an environmental disaster of proportions still to be fully revealed. We might be witnessing an ecocide.

As a direct consequence of Russian Federation’s attack today at least 17,000 people have already lost their homes and there will be many more to come. Safe and clean drinking water supplies are at risk for the whole region. Newly planted crops have been destroyed. It is the most vulnerable groups, including children, women, disabled persons and elderly who are suffering and will continue to suffer the most from the consequences of this illegal war. This is another war crime which we cannot let go unanswered. Attacks against civilians and critical civilian infrastructure must stop.

Madam Chair,

We are also greatly concerned by the potential hazardous consequences to the environment, energy security, food security, and nuclear safety which may go beyond Ukraine’s borders. To quote President of Ukraine Zelenskyy, Russia has detonated a bomb of mass environmental destruction. This act further complicates the already dire situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which is illegally occupied by Russia with complete disregard for nuclear safety concerns expressed numerous times by the international community. The destruction of the dam has led to a significant reduction in the level of the reservoir used to supply cooling water to the ZNPP. Russia must immediately return control of the ZNPP to Ukraine, which would allow for effective crisis management efforts with full involvement of the IAEA.

Against this backdrop, we commend the humanitarians who are providing the life-saving assistance to people in need. It is crucial to maintain safe and secure humanitarian access. As it has been stressed in the Statement by High Representative Josep Borrell and Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič today, the EU is ready to provide immediate assistance to Ukrainian authorities and address any immediate needs, including food and drinking water. The Emergency Response Coordination Centre of the European Commission (ERCC) is actively monitoring the situation and in close contact with the State Emergency Service of Ukraine. Ukraine can request assistance under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM).

Dams like the Dnipro dam in Nova Kakhovka are protected by the laws of war and the Geneva conventions. Destroying it is considered a grave violation of Article 56 of Additional Protocol I and would amount to a war crime. The international community simply must not allow the Russian Federation to cause yet another disaster with catastrophic consequences. Russia must bear responsibility for the devastating consequences for thousands of innocent civilians and civilian infrastructure. We need to make every effort to ensure accountability. Launching the International Register of Damage Caused by the Aggression of the Russian Federation Against Ukraine of the Council of Europe Register of Damage for Ukraine is a concrete step in this direction. Importantly, we need to prosecute Russia’s leadership for their crime of aggression at the Special Tribunal for the Crime of Aggression.

The sooner Russia realizes it has lost the war, the better. It’s a choice that Russia can make. We call on Russia to withdraw all its troops from Ukraine and stop this criminal war now!

Thank you!