June 7, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Sophie Tanno, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Mike Hayes and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, June 8, 2023
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3:18 a.m. ET, June 7, 2023

Fears of ecological catastrophe following collapse of Ukraine's Nova Kakhovka dam

From CNN's Josh Pennington, Jo Shelley, Olga Voitovych, Julia Kesaieva and Helen Regan

The House of Culture on a flooded street in Nova Kakhovka in the Kherson Region, on June 6.
The House of Culture on a flooded street in Nova Kakhovka in the Kherson Region, on June 6. Alexey Konovalov/TASS/Reuters

The collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine has sparked fears of an ecological catastrophe, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky describing the situation as “an environmental bomb of mass destruction.”

Water levels on Wednesday continued to rise after the Russian-occupied dam and hydro-electric power plant was destroyed early Tuesday, forcing more than 1,400 people to flee their homes and threatening vital water supplies as flooding inundated towns, cities and farmland.

Kyiv and Moscow have traded accusations over the dam’s destruction, without providing concrete proof that the other is culpable. It is not yet clear whether the dam was deliberately attacked or whether the breach was the result of structural failure. 

Zelensky, however, said Russia bears “criminal liability” and Ukrainian prosecutors are investigating the dam incident as a case of “ecocide.”

“The consequences of the tragedy will be clear in a week. When the water goes away, it will become clear what is left and what will happen next,” he said.

Concerns are now turning to the dangers to wildlife, farmlands, settlements and water supplies from the floodwaters and possible contamination from industrial chemicals and oil leaked from the hydropower plant into the Dnipro River.

The head of Ukraine’s main hydropower generating company told CNN the environmental consequences from the breach will be “significant” and damaged equipment at the plant could be leaking oil.

“First of all, the Kakhovka reservoir is likely to be drained to zero, and we understand that the number of fish will gradually go down,” said Ihor Syrota, the CEO of Ukrhydroenergo.
“Four-hundred tons of turbine oil is always there, in the units and in the block transformers that are usually installed on this equipment,” Syrota said. “It all depends on the level of destruction of the units and this equipment… If the damage is extensive, then all the oil will leak out.”

Read the full story here.

3:01 a.m. ET, June 7, 2023

At least 7 missing after dam collapse, Russia-backed official tells state media

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

At least seven people are missing following the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam on Tuesday, the occupied town's Moscow-appointed mayor told Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti. 

"We are clarifying the information on the missing people now," Vladimir Leontiev said Wednesday, according to RIA. "We know about seven people for sure."

Earlier on Wednesday, Leontiev said 900 people had been evacuated so far and the water levels in Nova Kakhovka were decreasing after the dam's collapse caused extensive flooding.

2:49 a.m. ET, June 7, 2023

Russian Foreign Ministry blames collapse of Nova Kakhovka dam on Ukrainian forces

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a news conference in Bujumbura, Burundi, on Tuesday, May 30.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a news conference in Bujumbura, Burundi, on Tuesday, May 30. Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service/AP

Russia's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday accused Ukrainian forces of causing the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam, echoing earlier comments from the Kremlin.

In a statement, the ministry said the dam's destruction had "led to a devastating humanitarian and environmental disaster," adding that huge impacts would be felt on the ecosystems along the Dnipro River.  

Kyiv and Moscow have accused each other of being behind the dam’s collapse, although it is not clear whether the facility was deliberately attacked or if the breach was the result of structural failure. 

On Tuesday, the Kremlin called the incident an act of "sabotage by the Kiev regime." 

The Russian Foreign Ministry statement went further, claiming that Ukraine had launched “mass artillery attacks” against the dam and “deliberately brought the water level in the Kakhovka reservoir to a critical level by opening the Dneprovsk Hydroelectric Power Plant’s floodgates.” 

CNN analysis found the water levels in the reservoir behind the dam were at record highs last month, according to the Hydroweb information service. Levels had plummeted earlier in the year, the same data shows, prompting Ukrainian officials in February to warn of possible shortages in drinking water supplies, and water for agricultural use. 

Ukrainian view: On Tuesday, a Ukrainian lawmaker told CNN "only" Russia could have caused the dam to collapse as the facility is located in Russian-occupied territory. Inna Sovsun, a member of Ukraine's parliament, said the dam's collapse had drawn Ukrainian military personnel away from a potential counteroffensive.

2:22 a.m. ET, June 7, 2023

1 killed in Russian shelling of Kherson, Ukrainian military says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv, Ukraine

Russian strikes hit residential areas, killing one person and wounding another over the past day in Kherson, according to Ukrainian authorities, as the southern region reels from flooding brought by the collapse of a major dam.

"Russian occupiers fired 70 times at civilian settlements in Kherson region," the Kherson regional military administration said. "They fired 353 shells from artillery, mortars, MLRS, tanks, drones and aircraft."

The frontline city of Kherson was shelled nine times, the administration added.

More than 1,400 people have been evacuated in Kherson as of early Wednesday following the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam on Tuesday, according to the administration.

Earlier Wednesday, the Armed Forces of Ukraine said a number of civilians had been killed and injured in Russian strikes on Ukraine over the past day.

2:22 a.m. ET, June 7, 2023

Water levels falling in Nova Kakhovka, Russia-installed official says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

Water flows strongly through a breakthrough in the Kakhovka dam in Kakhovka, Ukraine, on Tuesday, June 6.
Water flows strongly through a breakthrough in the Kakhovka dam in Kakhovka, Ukraine, on Tuesday, June 6. Ukrhydroenergo/UPI/Alamy Live News/AP

Water levels in the occupied town of Nova Kakhovka have fallen 35 centimeters (nearly 14 inches) from the height of the flooding as of early Wednesday following the nearby dam's collapse, a Moscow-backed official said.

Vladimir Leontiev, the Russia-installed mayor of Nova Kakhovka, said hundreds of people had been evacuated in the town.

"Yesterday about 900 people were moved from the flooded areas to safe places," Leontiev said. "We are confident that today will bring quite a lot of calming, positive news."

Remember: Leontiev on Tuesday initially denied information about the dam collapsing in an interview with Russian state media, calling it "nonsense." He later performed a U-turn, confirming the destruction of parts of the dam in what he called "a serious terrorist act," though he claimed at the time there was "no need to evacuate."

3:40 a.m. ET, June 7, 2023

More than 1,400 people evacuated in Kherson after dam collapse, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv, Ukraine

Rescue workers help residents to evacuate from a flooded neighborhood in Kherson, Ukraine on June 6.
Rescue workers help residents to evacuate from a flooded neighborhood in Kherson, Ukraine on June 6. Libkos/AP

More than 1,400 people have been evacuated in the Kherson region as of early Wednesday following the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam, a Ukrainian military official said.

In a statement on Telegram, Oleksandr Prokudin, head of the Kherson regional military administration, said more than 1,800 houses on the west bank of the Dnipro River have flooded.

According to a CNN team on the ground on Tuesday, water had spread across several blocks and into the center of Kherson city, cutting off some areas entirely.

Prokudin said Wednesday the water level is expected to rise by another meter (3.2 feet) over the next 20 hours.

“The intensity of the flooding is decreasing, but due to the significant damage to the dam, water will continue to come,” Prokudin said.

Local residents react after evacuating from a flooded area in Kherson, Ukraine on June 6.
Local residents react after evacuating from a flooded area in Kherson, Ukraine on June 6. Vladyslav Musiienko/Reuters

1:57 a.m. ET, June 7, 2023

Floodwaters damage bridges in Mykolaiv region after dam's collapse, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv, Ukraine

Flooding has damaging critical infrastructure in Ukraine's southern Mykolaiv region following the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam in neighboring Kherson on Tuesday, a Ukrainian official said.

Ivan Kukhta, head of the Snihurivka town military administration in Mykolaiv, said a bridge in Yelyzavetivka village is destroyed, and another in Halahanivka village is "completely flooded."

Kukhta said authorities are evacuating residents from a number of homes in Snihurivka.

The dam's collapse has prompted mass evacuations and fears of large-scale devastation as Ukraine and Russia blame each other for the incident.

1:32 a.m. ET, June 7, 2023

"Only" Russians could have caused Kherson dam to collapse, Ukrainian lawmaker says

Inna Sovsun speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine on February 16, 2021.
Inna Sovsun speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine on February 16, 2021. Volodymyr Tarasov/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing/Getty Images

Inna Sovsun, a member of Ukraine's parliament, on Tuesday blamed Russia for the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam, claiming it was part of Moscow's efforts to prevent a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

"The explosion came from within, so it had to be done by someone who had control over the territory, and those are the Russians," Sovsun told CNN's Erin Burnett.
"They are the only ones who could have actually done this," she added. "We do not have access to the territory now and we did not have access to the territory yesterday to set up such an explosion."

Kyiv and Moscow have both blamed each other for the breach of the dam and hydroelectric power plant in a Russian-occupied area of Ukraine's southern Kherson region. However, it remains unclear what caused the breach. A CNN analysis of satellite imagery shows the facility was damaged just days before suffering the structural collapse.

Sovsun said the dam's collapse had drawn Ukrainian military personnel away from a potential counteroffensive amid mass evacuations and fears of large-scale devastation.

"People who could have been engaged in the counteroffensive efforts are now doing evacuation, are now helping with humanitarian aid," she said.

"It is part of the plan to suspend the counteroffensive. Whether it will be successful or not, I think the coming days will show."

Some context: US and Western officials see signs that Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive against Russia is beginning and have noted a “substantial increase in fighting” in the east of the country as Ukrainian troops probe for weaknesses in Russian defensive lines, a senior NATO official said on Tuesday. But the destruction of the dam could complicate some of Ukraine's plans, officials told CNN.

12:51 a.m. ET, June 7, 2023

Civilians killed after Russian strikes, Ukraine's military says

From CNN's Josh Pennington

A number of people have been killed and wounded in Russian strikes on Ukraine over the past day, the Armed Forces of Ukraine said early Wednesday.

The military said all 35 missiles launched by Russia had been destroyed by Ukrainian air defenses.

"The enemy also launched 41 airstrikes and fired 57 MLRS salvos," the military said, adding that damage occurred to residential buildings and civilian infrastructure.