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Ukraine’s Zelenskyy ‘shocked’ at absence of UN, Red Cross after dam disaster: Report

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Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was “shocked” at the lack of a response by the UN and the Red Cross after the attack on the major Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine.

Zelenskyy told German newspaper Bild on Wednesday that although the catastrophic dam collapse happened many hours ago, “they [the UN and Red Cross] are not there.” He added that the international agencies should “be there first to save lives.”


He said he was deeply disappointed with the two organizations’ reactions to Ukrainian requests for help: “We have not received an answer. I’m shocked.”

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal had made on Wednesday a public appeal to the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for help to provide immediate evacuation.

He said: “International humanitarian organizations, on behalf of the government of Ukraine, I urge you, you must act immediately. We appeal to you to take charge of evacuating people from the territories Kherson Oblast occupied by Russia. We must save the lives of those people whom the occupiers have condemned to death.”

The dam of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant, which is in an area occupied by Russia, collapsed on Tuesday, flooding nearby villages, damaging crops, and compromising drinking water reserves. Ukraine initiated evacuation operations to move people away from the flooded areas. Both sides pointed the finger of the blame at the other with the accusation of deliberately attacking the dam.

Zelenskyy also implored the international community to take action to rescue the people of the Russian-occupied part of Kherson who he said were “abandoned in terrible conditions” by Russian forces. He urged the international aid organizations to immediately pitch in rescue operations.

He said in his nightly address: “We need international organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, to immediately join the rescue operation and help people in the occupied part of Kherson region. Each person who dies there is a verdict on the existing international architecture and international organizations that have forgotten how to save lives.”

Zelenskyy added: “If there is no international organization in the area of this disaster now, it means that it does not exist at all, that it is incapable of functioning. All the relevant appeals from Ukraine and our government are in place.”

On Thursday, UN humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine Denise Brown offered reassurance to foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba that UN agencies and other humanitarian partners have been delivering water, food and cash to those displaced or suffering the impact of the dam breach in the southeast region near the city of Kherson.

She said in a statement: “Plans are now being made, also in partnership with oblast authorities, to reach the wider flood affected areas as soon as possible, once the military deems it safe, given the risks as fast moving water shifts mines and unexploded ordinance to areas previously assures as cleared.”

Also on Thursday, the Red Cross announced that it responded immediately and its teams have already evacuated hundreds of people from affected areas. The organization said: “The ICRC’s primary focus is on access to water. Our experts work with the National Red Cross Society and local authorities, and we will supply goods and equipment over the coming days.”

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