By Athena Papakosta

As long as whole areas are submerged in water and people are climbing on the roofs of their houses or even on trees to survive the war of responsibility in the Dnieper continues.

When the Soviet-built giant dam was destroyed in Nova Kahovka of Ukraine, last Tuesday, the water held by the country’s largest reservoir flooded streets and houses in the Dnieper River riparian areas inhabited by tens of thousands of people despite the shelling that has been raging at this point on the map since February 2022.

No one can answer for sure what caused this disaster, and the reservoir that held the same volume of water as the Great Salt Lake in Utah, United States, is now a thing of the past. On the one hand, Kiev, which controls the west bank of the river and the city of Kherson, accuses Moscow of ordering the explosion of the facility, and on the other hand, Moscow, which controls the east bank, accuses Kiev of hitting the spot . Analysts also point to the possibility that the disaster was caused by wartime damage or even possible abandonment, noting however that the dam was under the control of the Russian armed forces.

Throughout Wednesday, both sides turned their attention to rescuing residents in order to move them to a safer area. At the same time, the water level was still rising. In total, 3,000 people were evacuated from the affected areas on both banks of the river.

The Russian side insists that rescues will not be completed earlier than the next 10 days, while 1,274 civilians have been safely evacuated so far. Kyiv reports that 1,700 residents have been safely evacuated while highlighting that 29 towns and villages along the Dnieper River were flooded, affecting at least 22,000 residents. However, it is worth mentioning that the exact number of residents in the affected areas is not clear as many of them had left them months ago due to the conflicts.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said via the Telegram app that the dam’s collapse had left hundreds of thousands of people without access to drinking water, also announcing that he would seek international help. At the same time, in his telephone communication with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, described the developments as an “environmental and humanitarian disaster”.

Experts are speaking openly about an unprecedented disaster that is reminiscent of a natural disaster, but they emphasize that it was ultimately caused by the ongoing fighting in Ukraine.

So far over 30,000 cubic meters of water is leaking every second from the dam’s reservoir. The fauna and flora on both sides of the Dnieper River have been destroyed and the environmental impacts are creating new, social impacts while the area is also at risk of contamination. The Ukrainian authorities, among their many warnings, call on citizens to drink only bottled water and not to eat the fish from the river, while earlier it was also known that all the animals in the Nizhnedniprovsky National Nature Park drowned except for the swans and the ducks.

The destruction of the dam coincides with an imminent counter-offensive by Ukrainian forces, which is seen as the next major phase of the war. How the outcome of the war will be affected remains to be seen however, it is worth underlining that while the civilians tried to leave the shelling continued.

Meanwhile, Moscow and Kiev are also blaming each other for the damage suffered after an explosion, a section of the “Tolyatti-Odessa” pipeline in the northeastern Ukrainian province of Kharkiv, through which Russia before the invasion exported ammonia. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu blamed Ukrainian saboteurs while the Kiev government says Russian forces hit the pipeline with missiles.