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Neutron Source attack: former Russian colonel general charged with ecocide

Wednesday, 14 February 2024, 19:09
Neutron Source attack: former Russian colonel general charged with ecocide
The Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology, where the world’s only nuclear subcritical installation is located, was attacked by Russia. Photo: Prosecutor’s Office

In a first for Ukrainian prosecutors, a Russian colonel general and four of his subordinates have been served with a notice of suspicion of ecocide combined with the crime of aggression and war crimes.

Source: Andrii Kostin, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, cited by the press service of the Prosecutor General’s Office; the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU)

Details: The investigation found that the Russian soldiers gave orders to launch attacks on the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology – the location of the Neutron Source, the world’s only subcritical nuclear installation, and a nuclear storage facility.

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In 2022, the nuclear facility took 74 hits from various different weapons: aerial bombs, high-explosive fragmentation tubed artillery shells, and high-explosive fragmentation and cluster rounds from Grad, Uragan, Smerch and Pion multiple-launch rocket systems.

These attacks were no accident, the Prosecutor General’s Office notes. The investigation established that Russia’s political and military leadership had detailed knowledge about the existence and location of this nuclear reactor.

The main suspect is Colonel General Alexander Zhuravlyov, acting Commander of the Western Military District of the Russian Armed Forces at the time, who directed the destruction of the institute. The next suspects, according to the military hierarchy, are two generals: Vladislav Yershov, Commander of the 6th Combined Arms Army, and Oleg Makovetsky, Commander of the 6th Air Force and Air Defence Army. 

The other two suspects are Russian colonels: Pavel Pilyukov, Commander of the 45th Heavy Artillery Brigade, and Yevgeny Gerashchenko, Commander of the 79th Guards Novozybkovsky Rocket Artillery Brigade.

A comprehensive forensic environmental and economic investigation has found that nearly UAH 15 billion (approx. US$393 million) worth of damage was caused to the environment.

The Institute's buildings and structures destroyed and damaged in the attack will cost more than UAH 30 million (approx. US$786,000) to repair. These are not final figures, the Prosecutor General’s Office adds. The Russian attacks have destroyed unique multi-million-dollar equipment that has no equivalent anywhere else in the world.

Quote from Kostin: "As far as we know, this will be the world's first criminal prosecution for ecocide committed during wartime. According to the available information, the suspected commander also committed crimes in Syria. He was not held accountable back then, and now he is fighting Ukraine.

I am confident that today, along with the rest of the civilised world, we can ensure that such crimes will be punished. Every day that we work together brings us closer to restoring justice."

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