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Earlier this month in Krakow, Poland, representatives from the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division’s (ENRD) Environmental Crimes Section and the EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics, and Training (OCEFT) – in partnership with the Justice Department’s War Crimes Accountability Team – conducted a week-long training for 24 Ukrainian prosecutors and environmental enforcement investigators.
The program’s objective was to provide participants with the necessary skills, knowledge and techniques to gather evidence of environmental harm that will allow Ukraine to prosecute potential war crimes and related law violations committed during the Russian Federation's invasion of Ukraine. The training was a combination of classroom lectures and practical field exercises focused on sample gathering techniques, sample plan development and use of field monitoring equipment.
The seminar used training scenarios focused on the recent Kakhovka dam breach. Participants travelled to the Mykolaiv Oblast in Ukraine to obtain samples – using U.S. field monitoring equipment – from areas affected by the dam breach employing skills they learned at the course.
Support for the training was also provided by the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group, which is funded by the U.S. State Department, the European Union and the Government of the United Kingdom.
The program was a part of a broader collaboration between the Justice Department and the Ukraine Prosecutor General’s Office that was memorialized in a memorandum of understanding signed by Attorney General Merrick Garland and Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin when they met in Washington in September 2022. The Department and Prosecutor General’s Office committed to cooperate on investigations and prosecutions of potential war crimes and related criminal offenses committed following or during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Pursuant to that agreement, ENRD and OCEFT have provided requested assistance to Ukraine as it explores avenues to hold Russia accountable for the environmental toll of its unlawful invasion.