Attacks on civilian infrastructure must stop, UN chief says after Kakhovka dam collapse

Russia and Ukraine have both called for an emergency meeting of the Security Council

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for accountability after the destruction of the Kakhovka dam in Ukraine on Tuesday.

The dam's collapse in southern Ukraine caused floods in Nova Kakhovka and 80 other towns and villages along the Dnipro River, leading to the evacuation of thousands of people as Moscow and Kyiv blamed each other for the destruction.

“Today's tragedy is yet another example of the horrific price of war on people,” Mr Guterres told reporters in New York.

“The floodgates of suffering have been overflowing for more than a year, and that must stop.”

He warned of the added threat to Europe’s largest nuclear complex, Zaporizhzhia.

“Attacks against civilians and critical civilian infrastructure must stop,” Mr Guterres said. “And we must act to ensure accountability and respect for international humanitarian law.”

He said the UN did not have access to independent information on the destruction of the Kakhovka dam, but “one thing is clear: this is another devastating consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine”.

“At least 16,000 people have already lost their homes, with safe and clean drinking water supplies at risk for many thousands more,” Mr Guterres said.

He said the world body was co-ordinating with the government of Ukraine on relief action.

Before an emergency meeting of the Security Council requested by Russia and Ukraine to discuss the dam's destruction, US deputy ambassador Robert Wood told reporters that Washington was "not certain at all" who was to blame for the incident.

Mr Wood said he hoped to have "more information in the coming days".

He told Security Council members that an "investigation is under way".

Russia's UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, blamed Kyiv for "the deliberate sabotage" against the dam and said it could "essentially be classified as a war crime or an act of terrorism".

"Attacks on objects containing dangerous forces are expressly prohibited by international humanitarian law," asserted Mr Nebenzya.

Ukraine's UN ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya accused Russia of a "terrorist act against Ukrainian critical infrastructure", adding it was "physically impossible to blow it up somehow from the outside by shelling".

The UAE's deputy UN ambassador, Mohamed Abushahab, called for "de-escalation and dialogue", warning that the humanitarian consequences of the destruction of the dam were "significant".

Updated: June 07, 2023, 5:07 AM