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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Major Ukraine dam ‘partially destroyed’, villages evacuated

The dam was partially destroyed by "multiple strikes", Moscow-installed authorities claimed just as expectations were rising over the start of Ukraine's long-awaited offensive.

A Russian-held dam in southern Ukraine was damaged on Tuesday, with Kyiv and Moscow accusing each other of blowing it up while locals were forced to flee rising waters.

The dam was partially destroyed by “multiple strikes”, Moscow-installed authorities claimed just as expectations were rising over the start of Ukraine’s long-awaited offensive.

Ukraine, however, accused Russia of blowing up the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant.

“The terrorists’ goal is obvious — to create obstacles for the offensive actions of the armed forces,” Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak said.

Ukrainian President Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky convened a meeting of his National Security Council over the Russian “war crime”, said his chief of staff, Andriy Yermak.

Several villages have been “completely or partially flooded” following damage to the dam and evacuations from the area have begun, a Ukrainian official said.

“About 16,000 people are in the critical zone on the right bank of the Kherson region,” Oleksandr Prokudin, head of the Kherson miliary administration, said on social media, adding that there was flooding in eight areas along the Dnipro River.

Read more: NATO’s ‘grave mistake’ led to Ukraine conflict – Kissinger

– ‘Defensive operations’ –

The Kakhovka dam, seized at the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, notably supplies water to the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Moscow in 2014.

Built on the Dnipro River in 1956, during the Soviet era, the structure is partly made of concrete and partly of earth. It is one of the largest pieces of infrastructure of its kind in Ukraine.

News of the damage came after Zelensky praised his troops for advances claimed near the devastated city of Bakhmut, while Russia said it had repelled a large-scale attack.

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“Well done, warriors! We see how hysterically Russia reacts to any step we take there, all positions we take. The enemy knows that Ukraine will win,” Zelensky said in a video message published on social media.

Earlier, Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar had noted “some success” on the battlefield.

“The Bakhmut sector remains the epicentre of the hostilities. We are advancing there on a rather wide front,” she said.

“The defensive operation includes counteroffensive actions. Therefore, in some sectors, we are conducting offensive actions,” Malyar added.

In May, Russia said it seized the now-destroyed eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, the scene of the longest and one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

Ukraine says it has been preparing a major offensive to recapture territory lost to Russia, but that there would be no announcement about when it would start.

On Sunday, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said words “can only do harm” and posted a cryptic tweet, quoting lyrics from the Depeche Mode song “Enjoy the Silence”.

US President Joe Biden wished Ukraine well on Monday in its expected counteroffensive.

Asked by AFP if he thought the expected Ukrainian pushback would work, the president answered by silently raising his hand and crossing his middle and index fingers.

The war has escalated in recent weeks, with increased attacks on both sides of the border with Russia.

Military experts expect Ukrainian forces to test Russian defences for weaknesses before starting a full-blown offensive.