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State of emergency declared in Russian-occupied part of Kherson

Kherson river port flooding on June 6, 2023.

Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images

Russian authorities in the partially-occupied region of Kherson in southern Ukraine have declared a state of emergency, state news agency TASS reported Wednesday.

The move comes as an increasing number of houses were affected by mass flooding following the significant destruction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant dam in the region.

Around 2,700 houses in 15 settlements of the Kherson region, where around 22,000 people lived, have been flooded after the collapse of the dam, Russian emergency services told TASS. Almost 1,300 people have been evacuated, the services said.

The authorities have declared a state of emergency in the region with water levels expected to peak Wednesday. Russia blames Ukraine for the dam breach, accusing it of attacking the structure. Ukraine blames Russia, saying it attacked the dam to stall its southern counteroffensive.

In Nova Kakhovka, where the dam is located, the water level exceeded 12 meters at one point, TASS noted.

Eighty settlements are at risk of flooding following dam breach. Ukraine said Wednesday that 23 have been flooded while Russian authorities said 14 settlements had been flooded. It was unclear whether the authorities were only counting those deemed to be on Russian territory Russia announced last year that it had annexed Kherson, despite only occupying a part of the country.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia hits back as it falls under suspicion for dam destruction

A street in the city of Kherson flooded after the Nova Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam was damaged, on June 6, 2023.

Stringer | Afp | Getty Images

Russia again strongly denied attacking the Nova Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam that led to widespread destruction in southern Ukraine, as it came under scrutiny following the major incident.

Ukraine and Russia traded accusations on Tuesday as a massive volume of water breached the dam in the partially Russian-occupied region of Kherson, causing widespread flooding downstream. At least 1,300 were evacuated yesterday and 24 settlements were flooded out of 80 that are seen to be at risk.

Both sides denied involvement in attacking the dam, with both accusing each other of blowing it up.

Analysts noted that both sides had plausible reasons for why they would and wouldn’t want to damage the dam. For example, they noted that Russian-occupied Crimea relies on water supplies from the reservoir and the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant also relies on supplies for cooling.

NBC News reported late Tuesday that the U.S government had intelligence that is leaning toward Russia as the culprit of the attack on the dam, citing two U.S. officials and one Western official.

Russia vehemently denied involvement late yesterday, issuing a statement in which it said that that the dam breach had caused “colossal damage” to the Kherson region it now claims is Russian territory, having declared it to be annexed last September.

“As a result of the inevitable shallowing of the Kakhovka reservoir, the water supply of the Crimea will be difficult, and the reclamation of agricultural land in the Kherson region will be disrupted,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

A partially flooded area of Kherson on June 6, 2023, following damage sustained at the Nova Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam.

Stringer | Afp | Getty Images

The ministry said the Investigative Committee of Russia had “opened a criminal case on the fact of committing a terrorist act that caused significant property damage and the onset of other grave consequences.”

Russia, like Ukraine, called on Tuesday for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the blowing up of the Kakhovka dam. The meeting is expected to take place later Wednesday.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine seeking international justice for dam explosion, Zelenskyy cites war crimes

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (R) convenes an emergency meeting of the National Security and Defense Council in Kyiv, Ukraine on June 6, 2023.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the attack on the Kakhovka dam an “ecological bomb of mass destruction” in a nightly address.

Zelenskyy thanked first responders for helping to evacuate people from the region and for assisting in other humanitarian efforts, such as providing clean drinking water, according to an NBC News translation of his address.

“Such deliberate destruction by the Russian occupiers of the dam and other structures of the [Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant] HPP is an ecological bomb of mass destruction,” Zelenskyy said on his official Telegram channel.

A satellite image shows damaged Nova Kakhovka Dam, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kherson region, Ukraine, June 6, 2023.

Planet Labs PBC | via Reuters

“It is very important now to take care of each other and help as much as possible. The whole world will know about this Russian war crime, the crime of ecocide,” he said, according to an NBC News translation.

Zelenskyy also said that Ukraine’s prosecutor general “appealed to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to involve international justice in investigating the dam explosion.”

— Amanda Macias

White House working to provide additional support to Ukraine following dam attack

Satellite images of Kherson’s Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant on June 6, 2023.

Maxar Technologies

The White House said it was working with allies to provide Ukraine additional assistance following the destruction of the Kakhovka dam in the Kherson region.

“The immediate focus is rightly on all the Ukrainians whose lives and towns and villages are affected by this flooding and making sure that they have the aid and assistance that they need,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters at the White House.

Kirby added that it was “too soon to assess what kind of impact this is going to have on the battlefield.” He also said the U.S. is working with Ukraine to gather additional information about what happened.

— Amanda Macias

NATO chief calls attack on Kakhovka dam ‘outrageous’

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg slammed the attack on the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine on Twitter.

“This is an outrageous act, which demonstrates once again the brutality of Russia’s war in Ukraine,” the NATO chief wrote, adding that the attack puts “thousands of civilians at risk.”

More than 1,000 people have been evacuated from the rising floodwaters in the area, according to Ukrainian rescue services.

— Amanda Macias

Kremlin claims Ukraine sabotaged dam to hurt Crimea

The Kremlin claimed Tuesday that Ukraine sabotaged the Kakhovka dam in Kherson in order to damage Russian-occupied Crimea’s water supply, and to distract from its military failures.

Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “we can already unequivocally state that we are talking about deliberate sabotage by the Ukrainian side,” but did not present evidence to back the claim.

“It is obvious that this sabotage has as one of its goals to deprive the Crimea of water … The water level in the reservoir is falling, and as a result, the water supply to the North Crimean Canal [providing the peninsula with fresh water] is reduced, reduced sharply,” he said, according to comments translated by NBC.

Ukraine denies damaging the dam, saying Russia had “blown-up” the dam in the early hours of Tuesday in order to prevent Ukraine’s counteroffensive from proceeding. Both sides are evacuating settlements vulnerable to flooding downstream of the dam, along the Dnipro river, amid fears of wide-reaching consequences of a “man-made disaster.”

Peskov said the “sabotage” could “potentially have very serious consequences.”

“Consequences for several tens of thousands of residents of the region, environmental consequences and consequences of a different nature that are yet to be established,” he said.

Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov.

Contributor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

He added that damage to the dam, which is in a Russian-occupied part of Kherson, was “connected with the fact that having started large-scale offensive operations two days ago, the Ukrainian armed forces are not achieving their goals. These offensive actions are choking.”

— Holly Ellyatt

1,300 Kherson residents evacuated so far, 24 settlements flooded

This general view shows a partially flooded area of Kherson, on June 6, 2023, following damage sustained at Kakhovka hydroelectric dam. The Russian-held dam in southern Ukraine was damaged on June 6, with Kyiv and Moscow accusing each other of blowing it up while locals were forced to flee rising waters.

Oleg Tuchynsky | Afp | Getty Images

Ukraine said around 1,300 people have been evacuated so far, as flooding affects the Kherson region following severe damage to the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam in the Russian-controlled town of Nova Kakhovka.

Ukraine’s emergency services, police and volunteers are involved in the evacuations, with around 80 settlements downstream at risk of flooding and a number reporting rapidly rising water levels.

The dam had held back 18 cubic kilometres (4.3 cubic miles) of water a volume roughly equal to the Great Salt Lake in Utah, Reuters noted.

Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs Ihor Klymenko said in his latest comments that 24 settlements have been flooded so far, as a surge of water flooded through the dam.

“We expect that the water level will be increasing within next 24 hours, so all departments will work around the clock,” he said on Telegram, according to a Google translation.

The Russian-installed Mayor of Nova Kakhovka said water levels in the town had risen above 11 meters.

Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of creating a man-made disaster by damaging the dam in the early hours of Tuesday morning, and of continuing to attack the area.

“Even after today’s terrorist attack, the Russian occupiers continue to shell the territory where evacuation measures are being carried out. And such shelling continues at this very moment,” Klymenko said.

Moscow alleged Ukraine “sabotaged” the dam to hurt Russian-occupied Crimea’s water supply and to cover up military failures. Ukraine denied this, saying Moscow had blown up the dam to try to stop its counteroffensive in southwestern Ukraine.

CNBC could not independently verify either claim.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia begins to evacuate residents near breached dam

Russia has reportedly started to evacuate citizens affected by flooding following damage to the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam.

Kommersant newspaper reported that Vladimir Leontiev, the Russian-installed mayor of Nova Kakhovka where the dam is located in a Russian-occupied part of Kherson in southern Ukraine, had initiated the evacuation of residents of houses flooded due to major damage to the dam.

Leontiev initially said there was no damage to the dam but later said the damage had been caused by “night attacks” by Ukraine, without presenting evidence, and said artillery attacks continue on the city. Ukraine says Russia attacked the dam.

A partially flooded area of Kherson on June 6, 2023, following damage sustained at the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam.

Sergiy Dollar | Afp | Getty Images

Kommersant cited Leontiev as saying that the evacuation of residents of about 300 houses on the banks of the Dnipro River in Nova Kakhovka had begun.

“Now we are resettling citizens who are directly on the shore. The city continues to be subjected to rocket attacks right now. I think that the residents of about 300 houses will be evacuated and are already being evacuated in order to avoid casualties,” he said on the Rossiya-24 TV channel.

Leontiev clarified that initially no one planned to carry out a large-scale evacuation, but in the end it was decided that people should be taken to “safe places” after the scale of the incident became clear.

The official believed that the evacuation of the entire city was not necessary and was quoted as saying: “According to forecasts, within 72 hours the water will fall to the usual level. But we need to survive these 72 hours.”

Leontiev said a decision may be made in the near future to evacuate residents and other settlements of the Russian-controlled part of the Kherson region, but “everything here will depend on the current situation and the situation, no one gives any forecasts.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Here’s what we know so far about the Nova Kakhovka dam blast

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right, chairs the emergency meeting of the National Security and Defense Council on the situation at the Kakhovka HPP after the dam was blown up overnight, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 6, 2023.

Ukraine Presidential Office | AP

The destruction of a major Ukrainian dam could have a number of serious consequences — and officials are sounding the alarm over an “ecological disaster” because of massive flooding.

The breach has stoked concern about the status of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which receives cooling water from the reservoir upstream, while international policymakers have condemned the blast as a “war crime.”

Russia and Ukraine accused each other’s forces of an intentional attack on the Nova Kakhovka dam. CNBC has not been able to independently verify the claims.

Here’s a look at what we know so far.

— Sam Meredith

Zelenskyy posts video showing water surging through dam

A screen grab from a video on Zelenskyy’s social media account shows the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant after a blast on June 6, 2023. The explosion has unleashed floodwaters across the war zone.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has held an emergency meeting of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine following what Kyiv said was an attack on the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam.

Earlier Tuesday, Zelenskyy said he had convened the meeting after the destruction of a part of the dam. He blamed the attack on “Russian terrorists.” Russia has denied attacking the dam, instead accusing Ukraine of undermining the structure.

Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials posted a video purportedly showing the dam being breached and flooding downstream.

Thousands of people living downstream of the dam have been urged to evacuate their homes amid fears of huge destruction in the southern Kherson region that’s partially occupied by Russian forces.

Andrii Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, said on Telegram that the destruction of the Kakhovka HPP “is the biggest man-made disaster in the world in recent decades, which kills the environment and will negatively affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the years to come.”

Yermak and other officials believe Russia attacked the dam in order to block Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

Russia claimed Ukraine was conducting artillery strikes on the area of the dam. CNBC was unable to verify the claims made by either side.

Holly Ellyatt

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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