On June 6, European Council President Charles Michel expressed shock at an attack on a critical dam in Ukraine. He vowed to hold Russia accountable for the war crime of destroying civilian infrastructure.
“Shocked by the unprecedented attack of the Nova Kakhovka dam. The destruction of civilian infrastructure qualifies as a war crime — and we will hold Russia and its proxies accountable,” European Council chief Michel wrote on Twitter.
Michel said he would propose “more assistance to the flooded areas” at their next EU summit this month in Brussels.
“My thoughts with all the families in Ukraine affected by this catastrophe,” Michel wrote.
On June 6, the Kakhivka dam was destroyed in a Russia-held area, with Ukraine blaming Russian invaders for blowing it up as people were forced to flee rising waters.
Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, dubbed Russian forces “terrorists” and said the attack demonstrated that they “needed to be expelled from every corner” of his country.
Olaf Scholz: dam’s destruction is consistent with Russia’s rising brutality
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the dam’s destruction was consistent with Russia’s rising brutality in Ukraine and Russian President Putin’s strategy of hitting civilian targets.
“For this reason, this is something that has a new dimension but which fits with how Putin wages this war,” said Scholz in an interview with broadcaster WDR.
He emphasised that this underscores the need for Germany to continue to support Ukraine for as long as required. Scholz also stated that Germany was concerned about the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power facility following the damage to the dam that provides water to the reactor.
On Twitter, the UN nuclear watchdog stated that it was actively watching the situation but that there was “no immediate nuclear safety risk at the plant.”
The Russian claims
The Russian-installed governor of Ukraine’s Kherson region accused Kyiv of attacking the dam using UK-made “Storm Shadow” missiles to divert attention away from the failures of Ukraine’s eastern counteroffensive. But Russia failed to provide instant proof for its version.
The Nova Kakhovka dam supplied water to Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, both of which were controlled by Russia.
The massive reservoir behind it, 240 km long and up to 23 km wide, is one of the vital geographical characteristics of southern Ukraine. The floodplain below has a large area of land.
Kakhovka dam has been controlled by Russia since the start of the war
The dam’s destruction creates a new humanitarian crisis at the heart of the war. It changes the front lines just as Ukraine launches a long-awaited counteroffensive to expel Russian invaders from its territory.
The dam has been in Russian hands since the beginning of the war. However, Ukrainian forces reclaimed the northern side of the river last year. Both sides have long accused the other of plotting its destruction.
Flooding threatens 22,000 people in 14 settlements in Ukraine’s southern Kherson area.
Expected counteroffensive by Ukraine’s army
The dam breach occurred as Ukraine prepared to launch a long-awaited counteroffensive to expel Russian soldiers from land they had gained over more than 15 months of fighting.
Russia also launched a new series of air strikes against Kyiv overnight. Ukraine reported that its air defence systems shot down more than 20 cruise missiles as they approached the city.