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AP: Russian occupation authorities deliberately undercounted victims of Kakhovka dam disaster

by Dinara Khalilova and The Kyiv Independent news desk December 28, 2023 4:21 PM 3 min read
A view from the roof of a residential building in a flooded area of Kherson on June 7, 2023. As a result of Russia's destruction of the Kakhovka Dam, massive swaths of land in the south of Ukraine were flooded. (Yan Dobronosov/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)
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Moscow-installed illegal administration in the Russian-occupied part of Kherson Oblast "vastly and deliberately" undercounted the victims of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant's destruction in June, an investigation by the Associated Press (AP) revealed.

Russia's destruction of the Kakhovka Dam on June 6 triggered one of the largest man-made environmental disasters in Ukraine's history. The southern Kherson Oblast has suffered catastrophic floods and a large-scale humanitarian crisis.

According to the United Nations' report, 29 people died as a result of the dam's destruction, and 28 were injured on the Ukrainian-controlled territory as of July 10.

While Russia has claimed that 59 people died in floods caused by the dam explosion in the territory it controls, the AP investigation discovered that in the Russian-occupied Oleshky alone, the number is at least in the hundreds.

The AP journalists talked to medical workers who kept records of the dead in Oleshky, a volunteer who buried the bodies, and Ukrainian informants who provided intelligence from the area to the Ukrainian Security Service as well as other residents, rescue volunteers, and recent escapees from the occupied area.

According to their accounts, Russian occupation authorities took control of issuing death certificates, promptly removing bodies that were not claimed by relatives, and preventing local medical workers and volunteers from dealing with the dead, threatening them when they did not follow orders.

‘They are destroying us.’ People plea to escape flooded Russian-occupied areas
Editor’s note: For this story, we spoke to people living or having family in the Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine. For their safety, they are identified by first name only. After destroying the Nova Kakhovka dam and stranding thousands of Ukrainians in the catastrophic flood zone, Russians prevent…

AP also found out that, following the disaster, mass graves were dug up in the Russian-occupied territory, and unidentified bodies were taken away to be never seen again.

"The scale of this tragedy, not just Russia, but even Ukraine doesn't realize," a nurse who initially supervised the process of collecting death certificates and later fled to Ukrainian-controlled territory told AP. "It's a huge tragedy."

While Russia has denied responsibility for the dam's explosion, its military has occupied the Kakhovka plant since the beginning of the full-scale invasion in 2022.

Intercepted communications from the night of the disaster further show that the Russians had planned "escape points" and were waiting on a "command" from their superiors.

According to the UN's report published on Oct. 17, Russia's destruction of the Kakhovka dam has caused almost $14 billion in damages to Ukraine.

Ukraine’s south threatened with long-term economic, agricultural decline after Kakhovka dam destruction
Ukraine’s agricultural heartland in the south of the country is threatened with long-term decline following the destruction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant and dam, Ukrainian officials fear. The destruction of the dam in the early hours of June 6, and the start of the draining of the Kakh…
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