The destruction of the vast Kakhovka hydro-electric dam has caused 1.2 billion euros of damage, Ukraine’s environment minister said on Tuesday, warning that mines unearthed by flooding could wash onto other European countries’ shores.
The collapse of the Russian-held dam on June 6 unleashed floodwaters across southern Ukraine and Russian-occupied areas of the Kherson region, killing more than 50 people and destroying homes and farmland.
Speaking by video-link to a meeting of European Union countries’ environment ministers, Ukrainian Environment Minister Ruslan Strilets said assessments of the damage was ongoing but the dam collapse was already the largest environmental disaster since Russia’s February 2022 invasion.
“There are things that we can never restore. These are the ecosystems that were washed away into the Black Sea. This includes 20,000 animals that probably died, including endemic species that were only found in southern Ukraine,” he said.
Strilets did not specify what comprised the estimated 1.2 billion euros ($1.31 billion) in damage, but said the dam collapse had left around 1 million people without drinking water after the Kakhovka reservoir’s volume plunged by three quarters, and debris would be washed into other countries.
“Europe will find Russian mines on its beaches,” he said.
Ukraine accuses Russia of blowing up the Soviet-era dam, under Russian control since the early days of its invasion. The Kremlin accused Kyiv of sabotaging the hydroelectric facility.
A team of international legal experts assisting Ukraine’s prosecutors in their investigation said it was “highly likely” the dam’s collapse was caused by explosives planted by Russians.
European Union environment policy chief Virginijus Sinkevicius said EU countries were coordinating emergency supplies of boats, shelters, water dams, medical materials and water purifiers.
In response to the dam breach, Poland said Russia should be suspended from the Intergovernmental International Renewable Energy Agency, and it asked the EU to coordinate a bloc-wide call for this - a call that Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia endorsed during the environment ministers’ meeting.
($1 = 0.9177 euros)