Dam destruction ‘dire’ for nature, Zelensky tells Vatican envoy

Ukraine President Zelensky

The destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam will have “dire consequences” for people and nature, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has told a Vatican peace envoy in Kyiv.

“This crime carries enormous threats and will have dire consequences for people’s lives and the environment,” he told Italian cardinal Matteo Zuppi as the two met in the Ukrainian capital, according to a presidency statement.

Both sides have warned of a looming environmental disaster as water gushes through the damaged dam, flooding areas on both banks of the Dnipro River.

Ukraine’s presidential office said some 150 metric tons of oil escaped from the dam machinery and that another 300 metric tons could still leak out.

Andriy Yermak, the head of the presidential office, posted a video showing swans swimming near an administrative building in the flooded streets of Russian-occupied Nova Kakhovka, a city in the Kherson region where some 45,000 people lived before the war.

What’s at stake after Nova Kakhovka dam breach?

Ukrainian and Russian officials on have accused each other of destroying the Nova Kakhovka dam, long earmarked as a potential target owing to its strategic importance and destructive potential. 

The Nova Kakhovka dam is located in Russian-held territory along the Dnipro river. © Studio Graphique France Médias Monde

The dam breach adds a complex new element to the ongoing war in Ukraine, now in its 16th month, just as Ukrainian forces appeared to be moving forward with a long-anticipated counteroffensive. 

The fallout could have far-reaching consequences, flooding residential areas along the Dnipro, depleting water levels around the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, and draining supplies of fresh water in Russian-annexed Crimea. 

It could also hold back Ukrainian forces as they seek to retake territory occupied by Russian forces east of the Dnipro, MEZIESBLOG learnt.

UN chief says dam breach ‘a consequence’ of Russian invasion

The United Nations does not have any independent information on how the Nova Kakhovka dam burst overnight, but “one thing is clear, this is another devastating consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine”, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said.

Earlier, Russian media reported that the country’s UN envoy would convene a session of the UN Security Council to discuss the matter.