Offers by the UN to assist those in Russian-occupied territories affected by floods from the collapsed Nova Kakhovka Dam have been refused by Moscow.
On June 6, the dam collapsed, sending a flood of water from the Dnipro River on towns throughout southern Ukraine, including areas of the Kherson region that are under Russian occupation.
The floods drove thousands of people to evacuate, devastated homes and agriculture, poisoned drinking water supplies, and raised concerns about an impending environmental catastrophe.
The UN called on Russia to follow its commitments under international humanitarian law.
"The UN will continue to do all it can to reach all people - including those suffering as a result of the recent dam destruction - who urgently need life-saving assistance, no matter where they are," UN humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine Denise Brown said in a statement on Sunday.
“Aid cannot be denied to people who need it.”
The number of fatalities from the tragedy has increased to 52; according to Russian officials, 35 people died in regions under their control, and in the interior ministry of Ukraine, 17 people died and 31 were missing. On both sides, more than 11,000 people have been evacuated.
‘Means, Motive, Opportunity’
Having been under Russian control since the beginning of its full-scale invasion in 2022, Ukraine accuses Russia of blowing up the Soviet-era dam.
According to a group of international legal experts supporting Ukrainian prosecutors in their investigation, it is "highly likely" that Russian explosives were used to cause the dam to collapse.
Using drone footage and data from local military and political sources, the Associated Press stated that Russia has "the means, motive, and opportunity" to demolish the dam.
Russia has blamed Ukraine for the dam rupture, but the different Russian claims, such as that a missile hit it, are insufficient to explain a boom that was so powerful that it was detected by seismic detectors in the area.
When the explosion occurred, Ukraine was preparing to begin its counteroffensive, and the Dnipro River served as the front line.
As the rising floods quickly engulfed their positions, Bugskiy Gard commander Illia Zelinskyi said, "It's a regular practice to mine (places) before a retreat." In this situation, their actions complicated for us a passage of the Dnieper (Dnipro) and disrupted parts of our supply networks.
The explosion appeared to originate from the region where the dam's machine room was located, Zelinskyi told the news agency. He said that Russian forces had been present for some time, as did a senior American official who was acquainted with the intelligence. To discuss sensitive information, the US official spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Photos obtained by the AP from Ukrainian drone footage also showed scores of Russian soldiers tented on a Dnipro bank, seeming at ease as they made their way back and forth to the dam without any protection.
In another image from May 28, a car was parked on the dam with its roof torn open to reveal large barrels, one of which had what seemed to be a land mine attached to the lid and a cable leading to the Russian-controlled side of the river.
While the car bomb alone would not have been sufficient to damage the dam, any explosion coming from the machine room would have been amplified, a Ukrainian special forces communications official told the news agency.
One of several dams along the Dnipro River constructed during the Soviet era and built to withstand tremendous power was Nova Kakhovka.
Popular swimming beaches along the Black Sea in Odesa have already been forced to close due to the release of contaminated water, and eating fish and seafood from unidentified sources is now forbidden.
Odesa's administration posted on the Telegram messaging app that the city's beaches have been deemed unsafe for swimming due to the water's significant deterioration and real health risk.
According to Ukrainian officials, water tests conducted last week revealed high concentrations of salmonella and other "infectious agents." Cholera monitoring was also in place.
We anticipate a worsening of the toxic substance levels in marine life and on the seafloor. Land mines washing up along the coast is another issue that raises concern.