Rescue efforts underway as Ukraine, Russia trade blame for dam collapse

People evacuate animals from a flooded area of Kherson, Ukraine, on Wednesday after the destruction of a dam flooded the area. Photo by Mykola Tymchenko/EPA-EFE
1 of 4 | People evacuate animals from a flooded area of Kherson, Ukraine, on Wednesday after the destruction of a dam flooded the area. Photo by Mykola Tymchenko/EPA-EFE

June 7 (UPI) -- Crews worked Wednesday to rescue civilians from flooding caused by the collapse of the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam in Russian-occupied Ukraine as Kyiv and Moscow traded blame for its destruction.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said rescuers were evacuating people from the flood zone and accused Russian occupation authorities of failing to rescue civilians in areas they control.


"Th situation with the Kakhovka HPP is the number one topic of this morning's conference call. Minster Klymencko, the newly appointed head of the emergency response headquarters, delivered a report. He is already on the ground. Evacuation of people. Urgent provisions of drinking water and long-term solutions settlements that were dependent on the reservoir," Zelensky said in a Telegram post.

"Evacuation of the left bank has been completely failed by the occupiers. We will appeal to international organizations," he said.


The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said it was working to rescue trapped civilians, as it shared a video of a drone delivering water to a stranded person.

"The Ukrainian military will never leave civilians behind," it said.

Russian occupation authorities have declared a state of emergency, with the Russian-installed mayor of Nova Kakhovka, Vladimir Leontyev, saying 100 people were trapped and seven are missing.

"Work is underway to rescue these people who are currently in need of evacuation; there are about 100 of them stranded," Leontyev told Russian television.

Meanwhile, Russia and Ukraine accused each another of deliberately destroying the dam.

Ukrainian Presidential Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak said, "At 2:50 a.m., Russian troops blew up the Kakhovka hydroelectric station and its dam. I do not understand how there could be any doubt about this. Both constructions are located in the temporarily Russian-occupied territories. Neither shelling nor any other external influence was capable of destroying the structures. The explosion came from within."


The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was the Ukrainian military that destroyed the dam.

"We strongly condemn the destruction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant by the Ukrainian armed forces. This is a terrorist act," the ministry tweeted Tuesday.

"We are deeply bewildered that the U.N. secretariat repeatedly fails to condemn the attacks perpetrated by the Kyiv regime citing insufficient information. This secretary's leadership does not hesitate to replicate politicized conclusions that suggest all such crimes are as a result of Russia's actions in Ukraine," said Russian U.N. Envoy Vasily Nebenzya.

Ukrainian U.N. Envoy Sergiy Kyslytsya said Russia was "floundering again in the mud of lies."

"By resorting to scorched earth tactics, or in this case to flooded earth tactics, the Russian occupiers have effectively recognized that the captured territory does not belong to them," Kyslytsya said.

Zelensky accused Russia of detonating "an environmental bomb of mass destruction," while claiming it wasn't possible for Ukraine to have destroyed the dam.

"Russia has been controlling the dam and the entire Kakhovka HPP for more than a year. It is physically impossible to blow it up somehow from the outside, by shelling. It was mined by the Russian occupiers. And they blew it up," Zelensky tweeted Tuesday.


U.S. National Security Adviser John Kirby told reporters he couldn't definitively say who destroyed the structure but that the United States was "working with the Ukrainians to gather more information."

Turkish President Recap Tayyip Erdogan told Zelensky that he would support an international investigation into the collapse of the dam, suggesting the United Nations and Turkey could play a role, according to the Turkish presidential office. Erdogan also spoke with Zelensky.

Zelensky confirmed his conversation with Erdogan on Twitter.

"Had a phone call with the President of Turkey, Recap Tayyip Erdogan. Spoke about the humanitarian and environmental consequences of the Russian act of terrorism at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant," Zelensky tweeted Wednesday.

Latest Headlines