Zelenskyy accuses Russia of shelling rescuers amid Ukraine flood crisis

The Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has accused Russian forces of targeting emergency workers attempting to rescue flood victims in the aftermath of the Nova Kakhovka dam’s destruction. In his nightly address, Zelenskyy revealed that over 2,000 people have been saved from flooding in the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions. He contrasted this with the Russian-occupied areas, where he claimed Moscow’s forces have abandoned people to the floodwaters.

“Evacuation continues. Under fire!” Zelenskyy said. “Russian artillery continues to fire, no matter what. Savages.”

Zelenskyy described the conditions in Russian-occupied parts of the Kherson region as “absolutely catastrophic” and called on international humanitarian organisations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, to deploy immediately to help those stranded in the occupied areas now affected by flooding from the dam’s destruction.

“The occupiers simply abandoned people in these terrible conditions. Without rescue, without water, just on the rooftops in flooded communities,” the Ukrainian president said.

“It is even impossible to establish for sure how many people in the temporarily occupied territory of Kherson region may die without rescue, without drinking water, without food, without medical care,” he added.

Reporters said on Wednesday that artillery booms could be heard as people scrambled to leave affected areas with the help of rescue workers. Zelenskyy expressed disappointment that the UN and the Red Cross had not responded more rapidly to the dam disaster.

“Each person who dies there is a verdict on the existing international architecture and international organisations that have forgotten how to save lives,” he said later in his evening address.

“If there is no international organisation in the area of this disaster now, it means that it does not exist at all, that it is incapable of functioning. All the relevant appeals from Ukraine and our government are in place,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, commenting for the first time on the dam’s destruction, repeated Moscow’s stance that Ukraine was to blame. In a call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Putin alleged that Kyiv authorities, encouraged by Western supporters, had destroyed the dam and were escalating “war crimes, openly using terrorist methods and staging acts of sabotage on Russian territory”, according to the Kremlin’s account of the call.

Erdogan has proposed a commission of inquiry into the dam’s destruction, following separate telephone conversations with Putin and Zelenskyy.

The impact of the dam disaster on the war and Ukraine’s planned counteroffensive against Russian forces remains uncertain. However, Kyiv announced on Wednesday that its troops had advanced over 1km around the ruined city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. This report marks the most explicit claim of battlefield progress by Ukraine since Russia announced the unannounced Ukrainian counteroffensive earlier this week.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s national security council, said assaults were still localised, and the full-scale offensive had yet to commence. He added that the public would know when the counteroffensive starts.

“Our troops have switched from defence to the offensive in the direction of Bakhmut,” Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said on Telegram.

Russia’s defence ministry confirmed eight Ukrainian attempts to attack near Bakhmut but said that all had been repelled.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington, DC-based think tank, said Russia has “a greater and clearer interest in flooding the lower [Dnipro] despite the damage to their own prepared defensive positions”. The ISW suggested that Russian forces may have thought breaching the dam could cover their possible retreat and delay Ukraine’s advance. However, the flooding is now heavily disrupting Russia’s prepared defensive positions along the occupied bank of the Dnipro river.

“The flooding has destroyed many Russian first-line field fortifications that the Russian military intended to use to defend against Ukrainian attacks,” the ISW added.

Authorities are now warning of the impact on global hunger and the environment due to the dam’s destruction. The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that the flooding could destroy crops and lead to greater hunger worldwide. Ukraine’s agriculture ministry expects about 10,000 hectares of agricultural land on the northern bank of the Dnipro river in the Kherson region to be flooded, according to initial estimates. On the southern bank, in the Russian-occupied region, this area will be flooded many times, the ministry said on its website. Environmental organisation Greenpeace also warned of enormous damage to the country’s water supply and food security.

“Due to the scale of the disaster […] there will be inevitable impacts on the water supply for millions of people and agriculture during the coming summer months and beyond,” Greenpeace said.

World News

Matthew Coles

Matthew is a British journalist with a unique flair in reporting about the latest news and events happening in Europe. Matthew focuses on producing well-researched, balanced, and narrative-driven content related to both national and regional interests across various European countries. He is passionate about discovering the diverse cultures found within Europe and showcasing them through his insightful articles.

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