Russia Targets Central Ukraine in Deadly Aerial Attack

Volunteers delivering aid to residents trapped by floodwaters from the breached Kakhovka dam, in a flooded neighborhood of Kherson, Ukraine, on Saturday.Credit…Daniel Berehulak/The New York Times

KYIV, Ukraine — Moscow has failed to provide security guarantees to international organizations seeking to help thousands of people in flooded areas of Russian-occupied territories, a top Ukrainian official has said, hampering aid efforts more than a week after the destruction of the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said on Monday evening on Ukrainian television that while Kyiv had offered guarantees to the United Nations and International Committee for the Red Cross last week, there has been no such response from Moscow. The U.N., which has requested access to areas under Russian control, said that it was still trying to provide aid to people affected by the flooding “no matter where they live.”

In Ukrainian-controlled areas, the floodwaters that surged down the Dnipro River last week have left thousands of people homeless, imperiled access to clean water for hundreds of thousands and ravaged farmlands in a region that has long served as a breadbasket for Europe. Russian-controlled areas were some of the worst-hit by flooding, but the full picture of the destruction in those places remains unclear.

Independent journalists and observers are not allowed to work in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, often making it difficult to assess competing claims about the depth of the humanitarian crisis.

The United Nations said in a statement last week that its agencies and humanitarian partners had been “delivering water, food and cash to those displaced or suffering the impact of the dam breach” in Ukrainian-held territories. It said it had “repeatedly requested access and safety guarantees” from the Russian military commanders in control of the worst-hit areas of flooding.

Martin Griffiths, the head of the United Nations’ humanitarian agency, said on Friday that Russia had not given access to areas it controls, and U.N. officials confirmed on Tuesday that that remained the case.

The 300-mile stretch of river and delta downstream of the dam had served as a dividing line between Ukrainian-controlled territory on the west bank and Russian-held lands on the eastern bank. The area controlled by the Russian forces sits at a lower elevation and the towns and villages there suffered more extensive flooding, according to satellite images.

Mr. Kuleba offered no details about the Ukrainian security guarantees, and did not say whether Kyiv had pledged to temporarily cease hostilities in the flood zone. The Kremlin has not commented publicly on the issue.

He said that the U.N. had redoubled efforts to provide assistance on Ukrainian-controlled territory and that he was assured that the U.N. was ready to go to Russian-controlled territory to assist people there.

“Such a mission has been formed,” he said. But, without security guarantees, it has not deployed, he said.

Saviano Abreu, a spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said on Tuesday that “efforts continue to ensure that the U.N. can provide critical aid to people impacted by the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam, no matter where they live.”

Kremlin-appointed officials in flood-hit areas have released statements claiming to have evacuated thousands of people from the flood zone, but some local Ukrainian residents have described how only those who have agreed to take Russian passports are receiving help.

Serhiy Khlan, a Ukrainian legislator in the Kherson region, said on Tuesday that Russian forces had set up firing positions and were shooting at people trying to escape the floodwaters in the direction of Ukrainian-controlled territory. Aid workers and independent journalists, including from The New York Times, have witnessed Russian forces firing on evacuation hubs and rescue workers on boats.

As the waters continued to recede, the death toll grew on Tuesday, Mr. Khlan said.

“Two more civilians were killed due to flooding in Kherson,” he wrote in a statement. “An unidentified woman and a 50-year-old man were found drowned in one of the districts of the city.”

At least 10 people have died as a result of the flooding in Ukrainian-controlled territory, Oleksandr Prokudin, the head of Kherson regional military administration, said in his latest update Tuesday morning.

Some 42 people have been reported missing and around 3,600 houses in 31 settlements in Ukrainian-controlled territory are still submerged in the floodwaters, he said.

Ukrainian officials said on Tuesday that the Russian forces were not carrying out any coordinated evacuation and that they had dispatched teams across the floodwaters to rescue 133 people in occupied territories. The Times witnessed several rescues as they were completed.

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