Thursday, 18 Apr 2024

Zelensky claims Russian troops ‘shooting at’ rescuers after Ukraine dam tragedy

Russia bomb areas near the Kakhovka dam

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed rescue forces are being shot at by Moscow’s troops when attempting to reach those trapped in Russian-occupied settlements on the left bank of the Dniper River. In its daily assessment of the ongoing conflict, the British Ministry of Defence confirmed “shelling” is making evacuation attempts more difficult, although it stopped short of sharing who was carrying out the attacks.

Kyiv believes some 80 settlements are either threatened or impacted by the floodwaters being released from the partially destroyed Nova Kakhovka dam.

Many of these towns are located in the Russian-held areas in the Kherson region.

Speaking to Axel Springer, Mr Zelensky said: “As soon as our helpers try to rescue them, they are shot at. People, animals have died. From the roofs of the flooded houses, people see drowned people floating by. You can see that on the other side.

“It’s very hard to get people out of the occupied part of Kherson region. When our forces try to get them out, they are shot at by occupiers from a distance.”

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In its defence intelligence update, the MoD said on Thursday: “Through 07 June 2023, flood levels continued to rise in the lower Dnipro, following the collapse of the Kakhovka Dam, but will likely start to recede during 08 June 2023.

“Shelling has complicated some attempts to evacuate displaced civilians from inundated areas.”

The update also said “heavy fighting” in Ukraine continues despite the tragedy unfolding in Kherson.

The briefing read: “Amidst a highly complex operational picture, heavy fighting continues along multiple sectors of the front. In most areas Ukraine holds the initiative.”

The Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs had already claimed on Tuesday (June 6) that, as residents were being evacuated, the Russian military was shelling Kherson using heavy weaponry.

A video shared on Thursday by Sky News’ Alex Crawford showed panic-stricken people at an evacuation point running to seek refuge after hearing the sound of incoming fire.

The governor of Kherson, Oleksandr Prokudin, said some 600 square kilometres of the region is underwater and that as of Thursday morning almost 2,000 people had been evacuated from the Ukraine-held side of the river.

Of the flooded territory, 68 per cent was on the Russian-occupied left bank.

The Russian state-owned news agency Tass reported nearly 4,300 people were evacuated from the occupied Kherson region.

Citing emergency services, it added more than 14,000 houses had been flooded.

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On Thursday, Mr Zelensky visited Kherson to see in person some of the devastation brought by the breaching of the Nova Kakhovka dam, for which Ukraine accuses Russia, and discuss the operations in place.

In a statement shared on Telegram, the president said: “Many important issues were discussed. The operational situation in the region as a result of the disaster, evacuation of the population from potential flood zones, elimination of the emergency caused by the dam explosion, organisation of life support for the flooded areas. Also, the prospects for restoring the region’s ecosystem and the operational military situation in the man-made disaster area.

“It is important to calculate the damage and allocate funds to compensate residents affected by the disaster and develop a program to compensate for losses or relocate businesses within the Kherson region.”

In a separate message, he added: “In Kherson, I visited a crossing point where people are being evacuated from flooded areas.

“Our task is to protect lives and help people as much as possible. I thank the rescuers and volunteers! I thank everyone involved in this work!”

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