The United Nations has rebuked Moscow for allegedly denying its aid workers access to Russian-occupied areas affected by the recent Kakhova dam collapse in southern Ukraine, which stranded residents, threatened power supplies and caused an environmental calamity as the war approaches 16 months.
The U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, Denise Brown, said in a statement late Sunday that the organization has engaged with Moscow and Kyiv, each of which occupies parts of the southern Kherson region where the dam and reservoir are located, to address the “devastating destruction” caused by the breach.
The Russian government “has so far declined our request to access the areas under its temporary military control,” Brown said.
“We urge the Russian authorities to act in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law,” her statement added.
Exclusive drone photos and information obtained by The Associated Press indicate Russia had the means, motive and opportunity to blow up the dam, which was under Russian control, earlier this month.
The explosion occurred as Ukraine mustered for a counteroffensive. Kyiv’s forces have intensified attacks along the 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) front line recently.
The dam lies on the Dnieper River, which forms the front line between Russian and Ukrainian forces on the eastern and western banks, respectively. Some analysts saw the dam breach as a Russian effort to thwart Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the Kherson region.
The U.K. Defense Ministry said Monday that Russia has recently redeployed several thousand troops from the banks of the Dnieper to buttress its positions in the Zaporizhzhia and Bakhmut sectors, which reportedly have seen heavy fighting.
The move “likely reflects Russia’s perception that a major Ukrainian attack across the Dnieper is now less likely” following the dam’s collapse, it said in a tweet.
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar says Kyiv’s forces have liberated a total of eight settlements in the course of two weeks on the Berdyansk and Melitopol axes of their counteroffensive in the country’s southeast.
Ukrainian forces have advanced up to seven kilometers (four miles) into territory previously held by Russia, she claimed.
It was not possible to independently verify battlefield claims by either side.
Russia attacked south and southeast Ukraine overnight with cruise missiles and self-exploding drones, Ukraine’s Air Force reported Monday. Four Kalibr missiles and four Iranian-made Shahed drones were shot down, it said.
According to regional officials, the southern province of Odesa and the southeastern Dnipropetrovsk region were targeted by the attack. No casualties or damage were immediately reported.