Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis ‘hugely worse’ after Kakhovka dam rupture, says UN aid chief

UN’s top aid official Martin Griffiths has warned Ukraine faces a “hugely worse” humanitarian situation than before after the collapse of the Kakhova dam.

This is a viral problem. The truth is this is only the beginning of seeing the consequences of this act.

Griffiths says an “extraordinary” 700,000 people are in need of drinking water and the flooding of agricultural land in one of the world’s most important breadbaskets will cause a “cascade of problems”, including lower grain exports, higher food prices around the world, and less to eat for millions in need.

Working mainly through Ukrainian aid groups, the UN has reached 30,000 people in flooded areas under Ukrainian control. Griffiths said he met with Russia’s UN ambassador for access to Russian-controlled areas in order to help flood victims.

Rescue people.
Deliver aid.
Address the ecological and economic consequences.

Speaking to @UN_News_Centre, @UNReliefChief outlines the top priorities following the dam destruction in #Ukraine.

The overall message to those affected?
“We stand by you.”

— UN Humanitarian (@UNOCHA) June 9, 2023

Key events

Russia and Ukraine are tussling over control of Ukraine’s counteroffensive narrative as both Moscow and Kyiv reported heavy fighting in the south-central Zaporizhzhia region.

Russian president Vladimir Putin confirmed the Ukrainian offensive had begun but said the troops “did not achieve their goals in any sector”. Ukraine’s president Voldymyr Zelenskiy did not make direct reference to developments in the battlefield but praised his soldiers’ “heroism”.

While some bloggers have described the first sightings of German and US armour signalling that the Ukrainian counteroffensive was under way, there’s virtually no independent reporting from the frontlines.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive is ultimately expected to involve thousands of troops trained and equipped by the west. The US announced an extra $2.1bn in security assistance on Friday, including air defence and ammunition.

Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis ‘hugely worse’ after Kakhovka dam rupture, says UN aid chief

UN’s top aid official Martin Griffiths has warned Ukraine faces a “hugely worse” humanitarian situation than before after the collapse of the Kakhova dam.

This is a viral problem. The truth is this is only the beginning of seeing the consequences of this act.

Griffiths says an “extraordinary” 700,000 people are in need of drinking water and the flooding of agricultural land in one of the world’s most important breadbaskets will cause a “cascade of problems”, including lower grain exports, higher food prices around the world, and less to eat for millions in need.

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Working mainly through Ukrainian aid groups, the UN has reached 30,000 people in flooded areas under Ukrainian control. Griffiths said he met with Russia’s UN ambassador for access to Russian-controlled areas in order to help flood victims.

Rescue people.
Deliver aid.
Address the ecological and economic consequences.

Speaking to @UN_News_Centre, @UNReliefChief outlines the top priorities following the dam destruction in #Ukraine.

The overall message to those affected?
“We stand by you.”

— UN Humanitarian (@UNOCHA) June 9, 2023

Opening summary

Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine, I’m Yang Tian bringing you the latest.

UN’s top aid official warns Ukraine’s humanitarian situation has been made “hugely worse” with the destruction of the Kakhovka dam.

Martin Griffiths said an “extraordinary” 700,000 people are in need of drinking water and flooding in one of the word’s critical breadbaskets could lead to lower grain exports and less food for millions in need.

More details shortly, in other key developments:

  • Russian president Vladimir Putin said Ukraine had begun its counteroffensive against Russian troops but that efforts “so far have failed” after Moscow said it repelled several Ukrainian assaults. However, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy made no formal announcement of specific developments on the battlefield, but praised the “heroism” of his country’s soldiers fighting “tough battles”.

  • Water levels are gradually receding in parts of southern Ukraine that were flooded after the destruction of the Kakhovka dam, according to officials. Meanwhile, evidence is growing that the dam was blown up after seismic data showed there was a blast at the site in the early hours of Tuesday. Norsar, the Norwegian Seismic Array, said signals from a regional station in Romania pointed to an explosion at 2.54am. Norsar did not draw conclusions on who was responsible.

Volunteers evacuate an apartment building on a flooded street in Kherson, Ukraine.
Volunteers evacuate an apartment building on a flooded street in Kherson, Ukraine. Photograph: Roman Pilipey/Getty Images
  • The US said Russia appeared to be deepening its defence cooperation with Iran and had received hundreds of one-way attack drones that it is using to strike Ukraine. Citing newly declassified information, the White House said the drones were built in Iran, shipped across the Caspian Sea and then used by Russian forces against Ukraine.

  • The Wagner group has been accused of stoking “anarchy” on Russia’s frontlines after one of the Kremlin’s military commanders claimed Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mercenaries had kidnapped and tortured his soldiers during the battle for Bakhmut. In a video posted online, Lt Col Roman Venevitin also accused Wagner soldiers of stealing arms, forcing mobilised soldiers to sign contracts with Wagner, and attempting to extort weapons from the Russian defence ministry in exchange for releasing kidnapped soldiers.

  • Iceland announced it would suspend work at its embassy in Russia as of 1 August, the first country to do so, and asked Russia to limit its operations in Reykjavik. “The current situation simply does not make it viable for the small foreign service of Iceland to operate an embassy in Russia,” foreign minister Thordis Gylfadottir said.

  • Russia will start deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus after the facilities are ready on 7-8 July, Putin told his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko on Friday in a meeting in Sochi, Russia.

  • Nato allies on Friday condemned Russia’s decision to withdraw from the treaty on conventional armed forces in Europe (CFE).

  • Hungary said on Friday it had received a group of Ukrainian prisoners of war from Russia, a release that Ukraine welcomed while expressing concern that it had not been informed.

  • Volodymyr Zelenskiy has thanked Joe Biden for his $2.1bn (£1.6bn) security assistance package. In a tweet, Zelenskiy said the contribution is “more important than ever” since the Kakhovka dam collapse.

  • The Japanese prime minister, Fumio Kishida, told Zelenskiy on Friday that Japan will offer emergency humanitarian aid worth about $5m (£3.9m) after the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam, a Japanese government spokesperson has said.

  • Ukraine’s domestic Security Service (SBU) said on Friday it had intercepted a telephone call proving a Russian “sabotage group” blew up the Kakhovka hydroelectric station and dam in southern Ukraine. A one-and-a-half minute audio clip on its Telegram channel of the alleged conversation featured two unidentified men who appeared to be discussing the fallout from the disaster in Russian. One of the men said “Our saboteur group is there. They wanted to cause fear with this dam. It did not go according to the plan. More than they planned.”

  • The Kremlin on Friday accused Ukrainian forces of killing civilian victims of flooding caused by the collapse of the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine in repeated shelling attacks, including one pregnant woman. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the purported attacks “barbaric”. Russia did not provide any evidence to back up its claims.

  • Russian deputy prime minister Marat Khusnullin said on Friday that Crimea’s water supply will not be affected by the destruction of the Kakhovka dam, and the peninsula had enough water reserves for 500 days. A canal from the destroyed reservoir fed drinking water to the peninsula. Kyiv cut access to the canal in 2014, after Russia illegally seized Crimea and claimed to annex it.

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