Ukraine called for more international assistance as it contends with the humanitarian and ecological disaster caused by mass flooding in the southern Kherson region.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Kherson today, meeting rescue teams involved in evacuations.
Mass flooding was caused after major damage to the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant dam on Tuesday sent a huge volume of water downstream. Water levels peaked Wednesday with footage showing some towns and villages almost completely submerged.
Five people are now known to have drowned in the flooding, though the true number could be much higher. Ukraine's interior minister said 30 settlements have been flooded in Ukrainian and Russian-occupied parts of the region, forcing thousands of people to flee or be rescued.
Ukraine and Russia accused each other of attacking the dam but analysts noted that both sides had much to lose from doing so. On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department said it does not yet have an assessment as to what transpired.
Ukraine said the dam had been "blown up" by Russian forces, adding that it had done so to stall its counteroffensive in the south. Russia denied involvement, accusing Ukraine of sabotaging the dam in a bid to damage water supplies to Russian-occupied Crimea and to cover up military failures.
CNBC and NBC News have not been able to independently verify Ukraine's or Russia's claims about how the dam was initially damaged. Analysts say it's also possible that the dam had some structural damage that had undermined it before Tuesday's breach.
More than 2,300 people evacuated from flooded areas following dam attack, Ukraine says
Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs said that more than 2,000 people have so far been evacuated from the flooded areas in the southeastern region of the country.
The government wrote on its official Telegram channel that "2,339 people were evacuated from the flooded areas, including 120 children," according to an NBC News translation.
The ministry also said that approximately 32 towns and more than 3,600 homes were flooded due to the attack on the Kakhovka dam.
"Psychological assistance was provided to 201 people. Nine evacuation points have been deployed," the ministry wrote, adding that rescue efforts are still ongoing.
— Amanda Macias
Photos show rescue efforts in Kherson as flood waters strand civilians
The Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric power plant, which sits on the Dnipro river in the southern Kherson region, collapsed Tuesday, forcing downstream communities to evacuate due to the risk of flooding. The cause of the dam's collapse is not yet confirmed, with Russia and Ukraine accusing each other of its destruction.
The Dnipro river has served as a frontline between the warring armies following Russia's retreat from Kherson and surrounding areas last autumn. The dam and plant had been under the control of Russia, which occupies a swath of land south and southeast of the river.
-- Getty Images
Destruction of Kakhovka dam will likely impact global food security, UN says
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, said the destruction of the Kakhovka dam and subsequent flooding may impact global food security.
The predawn attack on the dam in southeastern Ukraine triggered rising flood waters that have "destroying recently planted crops," U.N. Secretary-General spokesman Stephane Dujarric said during a Wednesday news briefing at the U.N. headquarters in New York.
"Authorities said that the destruction of the dam decimated the irrigation systems in the Dnipro, Kherson and Zaporizhizia regions," Dujarric added.
Before Russia's war in Ukraine, Kyiv and Moscow accounted for almost a quarter of global grain exports.
— Amanda Macias
Four ships depart Ukraine under Black Sea Grain Initiative
Four ships departed Ukraine's ports of Chornomorsk and Odesa loaded with a combined total of 167,437 metric tons of wheat, sunflower oil and corn for global destinations.
The ships, which sail under the Black Sea grain deal, are destined for Egypt, India and Kenya, according to the U.N.-backed organization tasked with tracking the export data.
The deal, which was extended in May, is set to expire in mid-July unless Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations can renew the agreement.
— Amanda Macias
Ukraine launches long-awaited counteroffensive against Russia, NBC News reports
A senior official and a soldier on the frontlines in Ukraine told NBC News that the long-awaited counteroffensive has begun. For weeks, Russian forces have braced for the new Ukrainian military push with Western allies declining to speculate on the timing of the counteroffensive.
The revelation comes on the heels of a catastrophic attack on the Kakhovka dam in southeastern Ukraine, which both Kyiv and Moscow have blamed each other for.
Read the full story from NBC News here.
— Amanda Macias
Ukraine says it could lose millions of tonnes of crops after dam collapse
Ukraine could lose several million tonnes of crops because of flooding caused by the destruction of the Kakhovka dam in the south of the country, the Ukrainian agriculture ministry said on Thursday.
"Without a source of water supply, it is impossible to grow vegetables. Grain and oilseeds will be grown using an extensive model with low yields," the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said this week dam's destruction would flood tens of thousands of hectares of agricultural land in southern Ukraine and could turn at least 500,000 hectares of land left without irrigation into "deserts."
The ministry said the flooded land would require a full agro-ecological assessment of the soil condition and in most cases special soil restoration methods would need to be applied.
It said vegetables, melons, grains and oilseeds were the main products which were grown on the affected land.
Ukraine is a global major grain and oilseeds grower and exporter.
Kremlin accuses Ukraine of shelling rescue teams
The Kremlin accused Ukraine of shelling Russian rescue teams in the occupied part of the Kherson region hit with massive flooding following damage to the Kakhovka dam.
Kherson is partially-occupied by Russian forces and both Russian and Ukrainian rescue teams have been working to evacuate and rescue residents in flooded settlements along the Dnipro river, with Ukraine focused on those on the Ukrainian-held west bank and Russia on the east.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday that ongoing fighting was making rescue work harder.
"The difficulty is that in a lot of places they (the rescuers) are forced to work in conditions of ongoing shelling from Ukraine, and this complicates their work," Peskov said, according to comments translated by Reuters.
He did not provide evidence for his claim. Ukraine has also accused Russia of shelling rescue teams.
Peskov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was monitoring the situation in the region, but did not currently have any plans to visit, Reuters reported. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Kherson today, meeting rescue teams involved in evacuations.
— Holly Ellyatt
Mines uprooted in Ukraine dam disaster could pose danger for years, Red Cross says
Mines uprooted and dispersed by floodwaters surging downstream from the breached Kakhovka dam across swathes of southern Ukraine could pose a grave danger to civilians for decades to come, the Red Cross said.
The vast Soviet-era Kakhovka dam, under Russian control, was breached in the early hours of Tuesday, unleashing floodwaters across a swathe of the war zone and endangering the lives and welfare of tens of thousands of people.
Ukraine blamed Russia for blowing it up. Russia said Ukraine sabotaged the dam at the behest of the West to constrict water supplies to Crimea and to distract from a faltering offensive. Some Russian-backed officials said the dam may have collapsed.
The waters have also washed over countless land mines sown during the 15-month war and nobody now knows where they are: they could still be in the minefields or could be stuck in the river mud or in fields, gardens and roads across a vast area.
"In the past we knew where the hazards were. Now we don't know. All we know is that they are somewhere downstream," said Erik Tollefsen, head of the Weapon Contamination Unit at the International Committee of the Red Cross.
"It is with a certain horror that we look at the news coming out," said Tollefsen in an audio clip, adding that World War Two mines found underwater in Denmark in 2015 were still active.
The war in Ukraine, the largest in Europe since World War Two, has left a vast amount of mines and unexploded ordnances across swathes of the country - a risk campaigners have been warning about since Russia sent in troops in February last year.
Besides anti-personnel mines, both sides have used vast amounts of artillery shells and anti-tank mines. The exact number of mines in Ukraine is unclear, said Tollefsen.
"We just know the numbers are massive," said Tollefsen.
Five dead from flooding in Russian-occupied part of Kherson, official says
The Russian-installed mayor of Nova Kakhovka, the town where the damaged Kakhovka dam is located, said five people are now known to have died in the Russian-controlled part of the region.
Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti quoted Mayor Vladimir Leontiev as giving the figure in an interview Thursday. Yesterday, a Ukrainian official said three people are now known to have died in the Ukrainian-controlled part of Kherson.
The Kakhovka dam was breached on Tuesday, with Ukraine claiming it had been "blown up" by Russia. Moscow denied the accusation and blamed Ukraine for attacking the structure.
President Zelenskyy visits flood-hit Kherson
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the flood-hit region of Kherson in southern Ukraine Thursday, as rescue teams continue to evacuate residents after flood waters peaked yesterday.
Mass flooding hit southern Kherson after a major dam at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant was damaged Tuesday. Ukraine blamed Russia, saying it had "blown up" the structure on purpose. Russia denied this, in turn accusing Kyiv of attacking the dam, which it denied.
Zelenskyy visited an evacuation point and hospital in the area and met with rescue teams, telling them, "I want to thank all of you for the important work that you are doing even under fire. You are heroic people."
The president also met with officials to discuss the consequences of the Kakhovka dam explosion.
"Many important issues were discussed. The operational situation in the region as a result of the disaster, evacuation of the population from potential flood zones, elimination of the emergency caused by the dam explosion, organization of life support for the flooded areas. Also, the prospects for restoring the region's ecosystem and the operational military situation in the man-made disaster area," Zelenskyy said on Telegram.
The president added that residents and businesses in the region would be compensated for their losses.
— Holly Ellyatt
230 square miles of Kherson region flooded, officials say
Approximately 600 square km (230 square miles) of Ukraine's flood-hit Kherson region has been flooded, according to the region's military administration.
The average level of flooding is 5.61 meters, officials in the southern Kherson region said on Telegram Thursday.
"600 square kilometers of the Kherson region were flooded, of which 32% is the right bank and 68% is the left bank," the post added.
On the right bank, which is Ukrainian-controlled, 20 settlements were flooded, with preliminary information suggesting that 2,629 houses were affected by water damage.
Police, rescuers and volunteers have evacuated 1,999 people from the worst-hit areas, including 1,495 on the Korabel Island district of Kherson city.
Power and gas supplies remain disconnected in a number of areas, while water supplies are a critical issue, with a number of districts without any fresh water supply.
Officials said that because of flooding, 129 transformer substations had been disconnected in Kherson. In one district of Kherson city, 82 transformer substations were completely flooded. In Kherson, a number of wells and sewage pumping stations were also flooded.
— Holly Ellyatt
Heavy fighting underway in eastern Ukraine, with Bakhmut once again the focus
Heavy fighting is taking place in eastern Ukraine with Bakhmut — the town that Russian forces claimed to have fully captured last month — once again the focus of hostilities, with Ukraine claiming to be advancing toward the town.
Ukraine's deputy defense minister said Wednesday that Ukrainian troops are gradually advancing and that everything is going "according to plan."
"Our troops are advancing toward Bakhmut. It is not so easy because the Russians are bringing in their troops from the rear and trying to reinforce their units in the areas where our armed forces have gone on the offensive. Fierce battles are underway. The Armed Forces of Ukraine are gradually advancing," she said on national television, according to comments reported by news outlet Ukrinform.
Hanna Maliar also called on the public to remain "patient," emphasizing that now "it is important to understand that everything is happening according to our plan." Yesterday, Maliar said Ukrainian units had advanced as much as 1 km in the area around Bakhmut.
There has been widespread speculation that Ukraine launched its much-awaited counteroffensive to retake swathes of the east and south of the country that are occupied by Russian forces, but Kyiv has denied this, although it always said it would not announce offensive actions.
Russia denied Ukraine had made advances around Bakhmut. The Ministry of Defense stated Wednesday evening that "the Armed Forces of Ukraine made attempts to break through the defenses of our troops in the Artemivsk area," using the Soviet-era name for Bakhmut.
"The enemy did not achieve the goal of the attack. Wedging in our defense is not allowed. During the fighting, up to 415 Ukrainian servicemen, two tanks, nine armored combat vehicles, six vehicles, the Gvozdika self-propelled artillery mount, and the Msta-B howitzer were destroyed in a day," the ministry claimed.
CNBC was not able to verify the claims made by either side.
— Holly Ellyatt
Rescue efforts ongoing as first flood deaths confirmed
Rescue efforts are ongoing in the southern region of Kherson following devastating flooding caused by a breach in the upstream Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam.
Three people are now known to have drowned in the flooding, according to the Kyiv Independent.
Around 30 settlements have been flooded along the Dnipro river, both in Ukrainian and Russian-controlled parts of the region, forcing thousands of people to flee or be rescued. At least 2,000 people in Ukrainian-controlled territory have been rescued, while the Russian-installed governor of the occupied part of Kherson said around 4,000 have been evacuated.
Ukraine's president and prime minister called for more help from international organizations in the wake of what's seen as a humanitarian and ecological disaster for Ukraine.
In his nightly address, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said "large-scale" rescue efforts are needed as he lambasted international organizations for not doing more.
"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," he 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," he added.
— Holly Ellyatt
UN says it has so far distributed 12,000 water bottles and 10,000 drinking purification tablets to Ukrainian civilians impacted by flooding
The United Nations said that it has distributed nearly 12,000 bottles of water and approximately 10,000 water purification tablets to areas impacted by flooding due to an attack on the Kakhovka dam.
"We also distributed ready-to-eat food for about 400 people within hours of their evacuation. And today we are providing one month's worth of food to 200 people in the Mykolaiv region" U.N. Secretary-General spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters during a daily news briefing.
Dujarric added that humanitarian organizations are also helping Ukrainian authorities with rescue operations and delivering hygiene supplies to evacuees in shelters.
— Amanda Macias
Photos show the devastating floods forcing thousands to evacuate southern Ukraine
Photos of the widespread flooding in Ukraine's southern region started to emerge after the Tuesday predawn attack on the Kakhovka dam.
As a result of the destruction of the dam, thousands are grappling with rising flood waters. First responders and volunteers continue to evacuate civilians and animals from the area.
Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy called the Russian attack on the dam "an ecological bomb of mass destruction" on his official Telegram channel.
— Getty Images
No conclusive assessment of what happened at Kakhovka dam, U.S. says
The U.S. State Department said that while it is in contact with Ukrainian authorities regarding the attack on the Kakhovka dam, it does not have an assessment as to what transpired.
"We're continuing to assess what conclusively happened," deputy State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters during a press briefing. Patel added that the U.S. is also discussing humanitarian assistance for individuals who were displaced due to the rising flood waters but declined to elaborate.
"It is deeply alarming; it is a tragic outcome of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine and so this is something we'll continue to remain deeply engaged on but I don't have an updated assessment to offer on this," Patel said.
— Amanda Macias
Ukrainian prime minister calls on international organizations to 'intervene immediately' after dam attack
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal called on the United Nations, Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations to assist in the fallout from the attack on the Kakhovka dam.
Shmyhal asked international humanitarian organizations to "intervene immediately" as Ukrainian first responders rush to evacuate people and animals from the region.
"As a result of this terrible terrorist attack, dozens of towns were flooded. The Ukrainian authorities organized an evacuation from the territory of the Kherson region controlled by us. However, on the left bank, under temporary occupation, Russians left the people to their own devices. Hundreds of houses literally disappeared underwater," Shmyhal wrote on his official Telegram channel.
"We urge you to undertake the evacuation of people from the Russian-occupied territories of the Kherson region," he added.
— Amanda Macias
Turkey's Erdogan holds separate calls with Zelenskyy and Putin following dam attack
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in separate calls following the attack on the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine.
Erdogan told both presidents, according to a pair of tweets translated by Google, that there should be the establishment of a commission tasked with carrying out an international investigation into the explosion at the dam.
Erdogan also told both leaders that Turkey remains ready to help with negotiations involving the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which is set to expire in mid-July.
— Amanda Macias
Ukraine says its troops are on the offensive in Bakhmut
Ukraine's deputy defense minister said Wednesday that the country's troops have advancecd as much as one kilometer (0.6 miles) in the Bakhmut area in Donetsk, the epicenter of fighting in eastern Ukraine.
"In the direction of Bakhmut, our troops switched from defense to offensive," Hanna Maliar said on Telegram in comments translated by Google. She added that over the past day, Ukraine's forces there had "advanced from 200 to 1,100 meters in various sections of the Bakhmut direction."
Maliar said Russian forces in Bakhmut were on the defensive in the town as they tried to hold onto occupied positions and were sending in reserves.
After months of intense fighting, Russian mercenary forces claimed to have wholly captured Bakhmut last month before handing over most of their positions to regular Russian army units. Ukraine denied it had lost the now largely-ruined town.
CNBC was unable to immediately verify the minister's claims. Russia's defense ministry denied Ukraine had made advances around Bakhmut.
— Holly Ellyatt