Villagers flee after the Kakhovka Dam is destroyed, flooding a war zone in Ukraine

  • A huge Soviet-era dam supplies water to the Crimean nuclear power plant
  • Russia and Ukraine blame each other for breaching the dam
  • United Nations Atomic Agency: There is no direct threat to nuclear safety
  • Russia conducts more air strikes overnight on Kiev

KHERSON, Ukraine (Reuters) – A torrent of water poured through a huge dam on the Dnipro River separating Russian and Ukrainian forces in southern Ukraine on Tuesday, flooding an area of ​​the war zone and forcing villagers to flee.

Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russia of blowing up the dam, a deliberate war crime. The Kremlin said it was Ukraine that sabotaged the dam, to divert attention from a counterattack that Moscow claims is faltering. Some of the officials installed in Russia said the dam burst on its own.

Neither side provided immediate public evidence of who was to blame. The Geneva Conventions explicitly ban The targeting of dams in war, because of the danger it poses to civilians from the destruction of such “works and installations that contain dangerous forces.”

By mid-morning in Kherson on the Ukrainian-held side, the wharf on a tributary of the Dnipro was already flooded by the rising elevation on the banks.

“I was evacuated from the flooded village of Antonivka,” Lydia Zubova, 67, told Reuters as she waited for a train to evacuate people. “Our local school and playground in the city center were flooded … the whole road was flooded, and our bus broke down.” from Kherson.

Ukrainian police released video of officers carrying an elderly woman to safety and rescuing dogs in villages being evacuated as water levels rose.

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On the Russian-controlled bank, the mayor of Nova Kakhovka that Moscow installed under the dam said the water level there has now risen to 11 meters (36 feet), Russia’s Tass news agency reported.

The dam provides water to a vast area of ​​farmland in southern Ukraine, including Russian-occupied Crimea, as well as cooling the Russian-controlled Zaporizhia nuclear plant. The vast reservoir beyond is one of the main geographic features of southern Ukraine, measuring 240 km (150 miles) long and up to 23 km (14 miles) wide.

A large swath of countryside lies in the flood plain below, with villages on the Russian-controlled south bank seen to be particularly vulnerable.


destruction dam It creates a new humanitarian and environmental catastrophe in the middle of the war zone and changes the front lines just as Ukraine launches a long-awaited counter-offensive to drive Russian forces from its territory. Experts said the dam was probably beyond repair.

Even as the waters rose, Ukraine’s Interior Minister Ihor Klimenko accused Russia of shelling areas from which people were being evacuated, and said two police officers were wounded.

Russia has controlled the dam since the start of the war, although Ukrainian forces retook the northern side of the river last year. Both sides have long accused the other of plotting to destroy it.

“Russian terrorists. The destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station dam only confirms to the whole world that they must be expelled from every corner of the Ukrainian territory,” President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

A general view of the breached Nova Kakhovka Dam in Kherson region, Ukraine on June 6, 2023 in this screenshot from video obtained by Reuters/via Reuters

The Russians carried out an “internal detonation of the structures” of the dam. “About 80 settlements are in the flood zone,” he said on Telegram.

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called it “an outrage that once again shows the brutality of Russia’s war in Ukraine”.

Ukraine and Russia accused each other on June 6 of blowing up a dam and causing widespread flooding in southern Ukraine.

“We can say unequivocally that we are talking about sabotage from the Ukrainian side,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a regular news briefing.

“It is clear that this sabotage is also related to the fact that the Ukrainian armed forces are not achieving their goals now, after they launched large-scale offensive operations two days ago, and these offensive operations are faltering,” he added.

Earlier, Russia officials gave conflicting accounts, with some saying that the dam was hit by Ukrainian missiles overnight, while others said it had exploded on its own due to previous damage.


The U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency said the Zaporizhia power plant, which is upriver on the Russian-controlled bank of the reservoir, should have enough water to cool its reactors “for a few months” from a separate pond, even with the reservoir drained out. . He called for the preservation of the blessing.

A video showed water flowing through the remains of the dam – which is 30 meters (yards) high and 3.2 kilometers (two miles) long.

The RIA news agency quoted the head of the region appointed by Moscow as saying that about 22,000 people living in 14 settlements in the Kherson region are at risk of flooding. Kherson is one of five Ukrainian regions claimed by Moscow.

Crimea’s Russia-installed governor, Sergei Aksionov, said there was a risk that the water level in the North Crimean Canal, which carries fresh water to the peninsula from the Dnipro River, could drop. He said Crimea, which Russia has held since 2014, has sufficient water reserves for the time being, and the level of risk will become clear in the coming days.

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The breach of the dam came as Ukraine prepares its long-awaited counter-offensive to drive Russian forces from its territory, using newly supplied Western tanks and armored vehicles.

Moscow said the Ukrainian offensive began on Sunday. Russia claimed to have repulsed the Ukrainian advance.

Kyiv has mostly kept austere silence about it, though Zelensky has hinted at successes. In a speech the evening before the dam collapsed, he hailed the “news we’ve been waiting for” claiming moves forward around Bakhmut, the ruined city that Russia captured earlier this month in its first major victory in nearly a year.

Russia also launched a new wave of night air strikes on Kiev. Ukraine said its air defense systems shot down more than 20 cruise missiles as they approached the capital.

Local authorities said the Shchebykino neighborhood of Russia’s Belgorod region near the Ukrainian border came under renewed shelling on Tuesday. Russian anti-government fighters based in Ukraine claim to have infiltrated the region and captured villages.

Reporting from the Reuters offices of Lydia Kelly and Ron Popesky; Written by Stephen Coates and Gareth Jones; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Michael Berry, Peter Graf

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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