War zone villagers flee after massive Ukraine dam destroyed

Europe International

KHERSON, Ukraine, June – A torrent of water burst through a massive dam on the Dnipro River that separates Russian and Ukrainian forces in southern Ukraine on Tuesday, flooding a swathe of the war zone, forcing villagers to flee and prompting finger-pointing from both sides.
Ukraine said Russia had committed a deliberate war crime in blowing up the Soviet-era Nova Kakhovka dam. The Kremlin blamed Ukraine, saying it was trying to distract from the launch of a major counteroffensive Moscow says is faltering.
Some Russian-installed officials said the dam had collapsed on its own.
Neither side offered immediate public evidence of who was to blame. The Geneva Conventions explicitly ban targeting dams in war because of the danger to civilians.
Hundreds of people were evacuated from settlements along the southern stretch of Ukraine’s Dnipro river as flood waters submerged streets, town squares and homes.
It was not immediately clear if anyone had been killed. The White House said it could not say conclusively what caused the destruction of the dam, but spokesman John Kirby said it had probably caused “many deaths”.
Lidia Zubova, 67, waiting for a train out of the city of Kherson in Ukrainian government-controlled territory after abandoning her inundated village of Antonivka, told Reuters: “Our local school and stadium downtown were flooded… The road was completely flooded, our bus got stuck.”
Ukrainian police released video of an officer carrying an elderly woman to safety and others rescuing dogs in villages being evacuated as the waters rose. Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko accused Russia of shelling areas from where people were being evacuated and said two police officers were wounded.
On the Russian-controlled bank of the Dnipro, the Moscow-installed mayor of Nova Kakhovka said water levels had risen to 11 metres (36 feet). He did not say how high water levels were before the dam burst.
Residents reached by telephone there told Reuters that some had decided to stay despite being ordered out.
“They say they are ready to shoot without warning,” said one man, Hlib, describing encounters with Russian troops. “If you come a metre closer than allowed, they immediately start yelling obscenities.”
Yevheniya, a female resident, said the water was up to the knees of the Russian soldiers walking the main street in high rubber boots. “If you try to go somewhere they don’t allow, they immediately point their machine guns at you,” she said. “More and more water is coming every hour. It’s very dirty.”
The Kazkova Dibrova zoo on the Russian-held riverbank was completely flooded and all 300 animals were dead, a representative said via the zoo’s Facebook account.
The small town of Oleshky, on the Russian-controlled bank of the Dnipro, was almost completely flooded, a Russian-appointed official said.
“Evacuation … is possible only using special equipment,” Andrei Alexeyenko, chairman of the Russian-appointed government of Ukraine’s Kherson province, said on Telegram.
The dam supplies water to a wide area of southern Ukrainian farmland, including the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula, as well as cooling the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.