President Zelensky (M) visits a hospital in the Kherson region affected by the floods. © Uncredited/Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AP/dpa
Large swathes of land in southern Ukraine are already under water, and the situation is getting worse. The destruction of the Kakhovka Dam could also change the situation on the battlefield.
Kyiv - A few days after the momentous destruction of the Kakhovka dam in the Ukrainian war zone, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has traveled to the flooded region. In the southern Kherson region, he got an idea of the ongoing mass evacuation and met local residents, rescue workers and soldiers.
According to Russian authorities, there are several dead and dozens injured. According to the Ukrainian account, the flood plain is already 600 square kilometers in size - and from the reservoir behind the smashed dam, huge masses of water continue to pour unhindered over the country.
Zelensky published a video via his official Telegram channel showing houses of which only the top of the roof protrudes from the meter-high floods. The Ukrainians have been warning for days of high casualties on the occupied south side of the Dnipro River, which is roughly the front line in this area.
They accuse the Russians of not paying enough attention to the evacuation of civilians and torpedoing Ukrainian rescue attempts. Zelensky accused the United Nations and the Red Cross of not providing aid quickly enough in the disaster area.
Majority occupied by Russians
According to Ukrainian data, a good two-thirds of the flooded area is Russian-occupied territory. The head of the occupation of the particularly affected city of Nova Kakhovka, Vladimir Leontyev, spoke on Thursday morning on Russian state television of five dead and more than 40 injured. These figures could not be independently verified.
The dam in Nova Kakhovka was destroyed on Tuesday night. Ukraine, like many international experts, blames Russia for the catastrophe. The government of the attacked country is convinced that Moscow blew up the dam in order to hinder the planned Ukrainian counteroffensive. Moscow rejects this and blames Kiev.
Russian positions destroyed by flood of water
The General Staff in Kiev believes that Russian troops lost fighters, equipment and military technology as a result of the destruction of the dam. There are dead, injured and missing soldiers. Experts from the US Institute for the Study of War (ISW) also noted that Russian defensive positions on the front line had been destroyed by the torrential floods from the reservoir.
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Russian military bloggers believe that Ukrainian troops could now more easily advance into the occupied territory in order to retake the region and then the annexed Black Sea peninsula of Crimea. Ukraine rejects this as propaganda by the Russian "terrorists".
There is no immediate danger to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant located at the northern end of the reservoir, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the nuclear companies in Russia and Ukraine. However, according to IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, the cooling water reserves will be replenished as quickly as possible in order to be prepared in case water can no longer be pumped out of the reservoir due to the falling water level. With full catchment basins, the water is enough to cool the six reactors for a few months. The reactors have been shut down, but need cooling water. Grossi is now planning a site visit, and the IAEA in Zaporizhzhia is also to be strengthened.
View of the water masses in Kherson. Water is still draining from the reservoir. © Nicolas Cleuet/Le Pictorium via ZUMA Press/dpa
The water level in the lake had dropped by one meter within 24 hours and was 7.00 meters as of Thursday morning (13:05 a.m. CEST), said the state-owned hydropower plant operator Ukrhydroenergo in Kiev. If the level drops below 12.7 meters, no more water can be pumped onto the site of the Zaporizhzhia power plant, Grossi said. The dam burst also has devastating consequences for the environment and agriculture in the region.
Water flows over the destroyed dam. On Tuesday night, the Kakhovka dam of the Dnipro River was severely damaged by an explosion. © Stringer/AP/dpa
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposed a commission of inquiry into the dam disaster in telephone conversations with Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron. Macron assured Ukraine of rapid support and held out the prospect of an aid convoy with basic necessities, including portable tanks, water treatment materials and hygiene items. The Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) sent eight trucks with relief supplies such as drinking water filters and power generators in the direction of Ukraine. Dpa