Ukraine resumed the evacuation of thousands of people on Wednesday after the partial destruction of a Russian-controlled dam unleashed a torrent of water that flooded some twenty towns and sparked fears of a humanitarian disaster.
Many of the inhabitants of an island near the city of Kherson had to escape in military trucks or rafts as water rose through the streets and on the roofs of the houses.
“So far, 24 towns in Ukraine have been flooded.”, said the Minister of the Interior, Igor Klymenkoand it was necessary to evacuate more than 17,000 civilians of the flooded areas, according to the attorney general.
“More than 40,000 people could be in flooded areas. Ukrainian authorities evacuate more than 17,000 people. Unfortunately, more than 25,000 civilians are in the territory under Russian control,” the Ukrainian prosecutor said on Twitter. Andriy Kostin.
The Ukrainian authorities accused the Russians of having blown up the dam on purpose, while the Russians blamed the Ukrainians for attacking militarily.
“The Russians did not care about the consequences when they attacked the dam. they don’t deserve forgiveness”, said Oleksandr Sokeryn, who lost his house to the flood.
The United Nations said that at least 16,000 people have already lost their homes and that efforts are underway to provide clean water, money, and legal and emotional support to those affected. Officials on the Ukrainian-controlled side of the river moved some people to cities like Mykolaiv and Odessa to the west.
The hydroelectric power station of the dam, conquered by the Russians at the beginning of their offensive in Ukrainemore than a year ago, is also “completely destroyed”, announced the head of the Ukrainian hydroelectricity operator, ukrhydroenergo.
For his part, a senior official installed by the Russians in the part of the region of Kherson (south) under his control announced the evacuation of some 900 people from the occupied areas near the Dnieper river.
Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky accused Russia of detonate an “environmental bomb of mass destruction”and assured that up to 80 towns would be flooded.
“This crime carries enormous threats and will have serious consequences on people’s lives and the environment.”, Zelensky maintained, specifying that the explosion took place on Tuesday at 02:50 local time.
Last October, Zelensky accused Russia of placing mines in the damand warned that its destruction would generate a new wave of refugees in Europe.
Shortly after, Russia responded by asking in turn for the “condemnation” of Ukraine for the destruction of the dam.
“We call on the international community to condemn the criminal actions of the Ukrainian authorities, which are increasingly inhumane and pose a serious threat to regional and global security,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
According to the Ukrainian government, the destruction is an attempt by the Russians to “slow down” their army’s offensive. On Monday, Ukraine claimed to have gained ground near the city of Bakhmutin the east, while relativizing the scale of “offensive actions” in other parts of the front.
For its part, Russia says it is repelling these large-scale attacks, while acknowledging on Tuesday that 71 of its soldiers have been killed in recent days.
The Ukrainian authorities claim to have been preparing for months a major counter-offensive to force the Russian troops to withdraw.
“There is no immediate nuclear danger”
The partial destruction of the dam it causes fear of consequences for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, located 150 km upstream, because it guarantees its cooling.
However, “There is no immediate nuclear danger”underlined the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), adding that its experts at the facility are monitoring the situation.
Like the dam, the power plant is located in an area occupied by Russian forces since the invasion they launched in February 2022.
The director of the center Yuri Chernichuknamed by the Russian occupiers, stated that “at present there are no threats” to the security of the facility.
In the city of Kherson the inhabitants fear the consequences.
“The flood is right there, in front of our eyes. Nobody knows what can happen from now on. A good Russian is a dead Russian, I can’t say anything else,” says Viktor, a resident, to the AFP.
The partial destruction of the dam is “the biggest man-made environmental disaster in Europe for decades,” Zelensky said, accusing Russia of being guilty “of brutal ecocide.”
Russia will be held accountable for this “war crime” which constitutes the destruction of civilian infrastructure, said the head of the European Council, Charles Michel, while the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenbergdenounced a “scandalous act”.
In turn, the UN Secretary General, Anthony Guterres, called the attack “another devastating consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
“Today’s tragedy is yet another example of the dire price of war for the people,” Guterres added.
The Kakhovka dam, built in the 1950s, at the height of the Soviet era, has strategic value as it supplies water to the North Crimean Canal, which originates in southern Ukraine and crosses the entire Crimean peninsula, under control Russian since 2014.
(With information from The Associated Press and AFP)
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