Ukrainians in the devastated Kherson region have warned of “ecocide” as thousands scrambled to rescue loved ones and animals left stranded after the destruction of a dam on Tuesday left many areas under water.
The Foreign Ministry of Ukraine said all animals at a zoo in Kakhovka died in the flooding, with only ducks and swans able to escape.
Volunteers have shared video of efforts to rescue traumatised animals and local residents, with social media footage showing shaking creatures saved from high waters by civilians.
“I am not a volunteer. I just love animals so much. We are rescuing any we can – there are so many of them trapped,” one woman told Ukrainian media as she held a shivering dog in a video circulating online. Others were seen rescuing stranded cows and pigs from flooded farms.
Animal rights groups from across Ukraine have descended on the region and said thousands of creatures are in danger amid an “ecocide”.
Kyiv has also used the term amid the devastating flooding caused by the dam collapse, which President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was “absolutely deliberate”.
“Russian terrorists have once again proved that they are a threat to everything living,” he tweeted on Wednesday.
A state of emergency has been imposed in the Russian-annexed part of the Kherson, Moscow's Tass news agency said.
So far, at least seven people are missing after waters from the destroyed dam flooded nearby areas.
“Seven people we know for sure [are missing],” Nova Kakhovka mayor Vladimir Leontiev told Tass on Wednesday.
Hundreds of thousands of people in the region are now without access to drinking water, Mr Zelenskyy said on Wednesday following the destruction of the dam a day earlier.
More than 900 people were moved on Tuesday from the Russian-controlled city of about 45,000 people, which is on the south bank of the Dnipro river.
About 42,000 people were at risk from flooding in Russian and Ukrainian controlled areas along the river, Ukrainian officials said, as the UN aid chief warned of “grave and far-reaching consequences”.
Mr Leontiev said that parts of Russian minefields flooded after the dam burst.
Ukraine and Russia each blame the other for the destruction of the dam, which was in Russian-held territory.
Ukraine’s hydroelectric energy company stated that it was blown up from inside.
Russian officials blamed Ukrainian bombardment in the contested area, where the river separates the two sides.
The international community has warned of a human and ecological disaster whose repercussions will take days to assess and far longer to recover from.
The dam break, which both sides long feared, adds a new dimension to the war, now in its 16th month.
Ukrainian forces were widely seen to be moving forward with a long-anticipated counteroffensive along more than 1,000km of front line in the east and south.