President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine has accused Russian forces of shelling Ukrainian rescue workers, attempting to save people from inundation caused by the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam.
In his nightly address on Wednesday, Zelenskyy reported that over 2,000 people had been rescued from flooding in the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions. He contrasted this with the situation in Russian-occupied regions, where he accused Moscow's forces of abandoning people to the flood.
"Evacuation continues. Under bombardment!" Zelenskyy said. "Regardless, Russian artillery continues to discharge. Savages," he said.
Despite the shelling, our military and special services rescued as many persons as possible.
Zelenskky described conditions in Russian-occupied areas of the Kherson region as "absolutely catastrophic," and he urged international humanitarian organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, to immediately deploy to and assist people abandoned in occupied areas now flooded due to the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam on Tuesday.
"The occupiers simply abandoned the populace in such dreadful conditions. The president of Ukraine stated, without rescue, without water, only on the rooftops of inundated communities.
"It is even impossible to determine with certainty how many people in the temporarily occupied territory of the Kherson region will perish without rescue, water, food, and medical care," he added.
Wednesday, reporters reported hearing artillery booms as people fled afflicted areas with the assistance of rescue workers.
According to media reports, on Wednesday, Zelenskky expressed disappointment that the United Nations and the Red Cross had not responded swiftly to the dam calamity.
"Every life lost, there is a verdict on the international architecture and international organizations that have forgotten how to save lives," he said in his evening address.
"If there is no international organization in the area of this catastrophe right now, then it does not exist and cannot function. He said all pertinent appeals from the Ukrainian government and our own are in place.
Vladimir Putin, speaking for the first time about the dam explosion on Tuesday, reiterated Moscow's position that Ukraine was to blame.
Putin alleged in a call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Kyiv authorities, aided by Western supporters, had destroyed the dam and were escalating "war crimes, openly employing terrorist methods, and staging acts of sabotage on Russian territory," according to the Kremlin's account of the call.
Following separate telephone conversations with Putin and Zelenskyy on Wednesday, Erdogan has proposed a commission of inquiry into the devastation of the dam, the presidential office in Ankara announced.
Uncertain is the impact of the dam failure on the conflict and Ukraine's planned counteroffensive against Russian forces, but Kyiv announced on Wednesday that its troops had advanced more than 1 kilometer (just over half a mile) around the ruined city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.
Reports of the advance were Ukraine's most explicit assertion of battlefield progress since Russia announced this week that the Ukrainian counteroffensive had unexpectedly begun.
Secretary of Ukraine's national security council Oleksiy Danilov stated that ongoing attacks are still localized and that the full-scale offensive has not yet begun, adding that the public will be informed when the counteroffensive begins.
"Our troops have transitioned from defense to offense in the direction of Bakhmut," Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar said via Telegram.
The Russian Ministry of Defense verified eight Ukrainian attacks near Bakhmut but stated they were all repelled.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said Russia has "a greater and clearer interest in flooding the lower [Dnipro] despite the damage to their own prepared defensive positions" in response to the dam's destruction, for which Kyiv and Moscow are trading blame.
According to the ISW, Russian forces may have believed that breaching the dam would cover a potential retreat and delay Ukraine's advance if they believed that Ukraine had already begun its counteroffensive.
ISW reported on Thursday that the inundation is now severely disrupting Russia's prepared defensive positions along the occupied bank of the Dnipro River.
"The flooding has destroyed many Russian first-line field fortifications that the Russian military intended to use to defend against Ukrainian attacks," the ISW added.
Authorities are now warning about the effects of the dam's devastation on global hunger and the environment, with the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) warning that the flooding could destroy crops and increase global hunger.
Initial estimates indicate that approximately 10,000 hectares (38.6 square miles) of agricultural land in the Kherson region's northern bank of the Dnieper River are expected to be flooded. On the southern bank, in Russian-occupied territory, this location will be repeatedly flooded, according to the ministry's website.
The environmental organization Greenpeace warned of immeasurable harm to the nation's water supply and food security.
Greenpeace stated, "Due to the magnitude of the disaster [...] there will be unavoidable effects on the water supply for millions of people and agriculture during the coming summer months and beyond."