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Sunak says bombing of dam could be 'new low' for Russia as US intelligence ‘leans towards’ Kremlin being behind attack
7 June 2023, 00:56 | Updated: 7 June 2023, 10:17
Rishi Sunak has said that if Russia was behind the bombing of a dam in Nova Kakhovka it will have hit a "new low" in its invasion of Ukraine.
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The US government is understood to have intelligence "leaning towards" Moscow being the culprit behind the attack on the dam.
Two US officials and one Western official have suggested Russia is responsible for the attack on a dam in a Russia-controlled region of Ukraine, according to NBC News.
Mr Sunak said: "It’s too soon to pre-empt that and make a definitive judgement. But what I can say is if it is intentional, it would represent, I think, the largest attack on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine since the start of the war, and just demonstrate the new lows that we would have seen from Russian aggression.
"Attacks on civilian infrastructure are appalling and wrong."
It comes amid warnings from Ukraine that Russia may try and blow up the largest nuclear plant in Europe next.
Oleksiy Danilov, President Zelenskyy’s top security official, said that “the whole world” should be concerned by how reckless Moscow could be.
"It is a fact there are explosives [at the occupied Zaporizhzhia plant] . . . since Putin had the hydroelectric power plant blown up on his demand, he’s ready to do anything," Mr Danilov told the Times after an emergency meeting of Ukraine’s national security council.
Joe Biden’s administration has allegedly been working to declassify some of the intelligence about the situation as the flooding continues.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the US government “cannot say conclusively” who was behind the attack, speaking to reporters at the White House on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres described the incident as “yet another example of the horrific price of war on people”, as he said he did not have the information to determine why the collapse happened.
Ukraine dam collapse is "ongoing disaster" says Editor of the New Voice of Ukraine
Editor for the English-language section of the New Voice of Ukraine, Euan MacDonald, spoke to Nick Ferrari at Breakfast detailing the destruction of the dam collapse, stating: "The disaster is ongoing and the water is not expected to recede for at least a week".
Noting the proximity of the dam to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Mr MacDonald told Nick there was "no immediate danger" despite the plants cooling water supply being depleted, due to the flood.
Despite the reactors remaining in "cold shutdown" the Editor emphasised the "misleading" statement adding "they are still very hot and require cooling".
Thousands of residents living in low-lying areas were ordered to evacuate as soon as possible on Tuesday, as the dam on the Dnieper River collapsed.
The dam provides water for a number of communities upstream, but many people were urged to seek shelter on high ground.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the bursting of the Nova Kakhovka dam as "an environmental bomb of mass destruction” and said the only guarantee against new “terrorist” acts is liberating Ukraine.
“Such deliberate destruction by the Russian occupiers and other structures of the hydroelectric power station is an environmental bomb of mass destruction,” he said as he pointed to Russia as responsible for the dam’s collapse.
He also said his government is doing "all we can to save people" and that he had ordered an evacuation.
Ukraine described the destruction as an act of terror carried out by Russia, saying the dam was blown up "from inside" at 2.50am local time.
A state of emergency was declared in the Russian-occupied land on Tuesday as water levels continue to rise and are expected to continue rising for a total of 72 hours.
The nearby town was plunged underwater, affecting around 600 houses, as a result of the dam’s collapse.
Both Ukraine and Russia have been quick to point fingers at the other for the flooding, as Vladimir Leontyev of the Russian authorities said in a video message: “This crime cannot be written off. This is a terrorist act directed against civilians, Ukrainians did it.
“The water continues to mount. An evacuation is being carried out of civilians from the adjacent flooded zones to preserve all lives. There is no panic in the town.”
Ukraine and Russia have previously accused each other of targeting the dam with attacks and in October, Mr Zelenskyy predicted Russia would destroy the dam in order to cause a flood.
President Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram on Tuesday: "Russian terrorists. The destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam only confirms for the whole world that they must be expelled from every corner of Ukrainian land.
"Not a single meter should be left to them, because they use every meter for terror.”
Ukraine's state-owned energy company Ukrhydroenergo said the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant was "beyond repair" as a result of the attack.
Energoatom, Ukraine's state nuclear energy generating company, said in a statement: "The undermining of the Kakhovska hydroelectric power plant may have negative consequences for the ZNPP, but the situation is under control’.”
The attack comes after claims from the Russian defence ministry on Monday that it had held off a major offensive in South Donetsk.
Ukraine has launched a series of assaults on Russian lines in its occupied eastern parts in recent days.
Russia recently declared victory in Bakhmut after losing high numbers of men, but a counter-offensive in the city is said to be under way.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the forward moves in Bakhmut as speculation continues to mount about the beginnings of a Ukrainian offensive.