The United Nations is accusing Russia of denying access to aid workers who want to help people “affected by the devastating destruction of the Kakhovka Dam” in Ukraine.
In a statement, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine Denise Brown said the agency has been talking with both the governments of Ukraine and Russia to deliver “humanitarian aid” in the wake of the June 6 disaster, which has caused extensive flooding in the southern Kherson region.
However, the “Government of the Russian Federation has so far declined our request to access the areas under its temporary military control,” she said, noting that the U.N. is urging “the Russian authorities to act in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law.
“Aid cannot be denied to people who need it,” Brown added. “The U.N. will continue to do all it can to reach all people — including those suffering as a result of the recent dam destruction — who urgently need life-saving assistance, no matter where they are.”
On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the U.N. aid workers who want to visit areas ravaged by the recent dam collapse can’t go there because fighting in the war makes it unsafe.
Peskov did not explicitly admit that Russia had blocked U.N. access, but told a conference call with reporters that Ukrainian attacks made a visit too risky, according to The Associated Press. The dam lies on the Dnieper River, which forms the front line between Russian and Ukrainian forces on the eastern and western banks, respectively.
“There has been constant shelling, constant provocations, civilian facilities and the civilian population have come under fire, people have died, so it’s really difficult to ensure their security,” Peskov reportedly said.
Some civilians in the flooded areas allege that evacuees have been asked to show Russian passports if they want to leave.
Ukraine’s presidential office, meanwhile, said Monday that there have been 35 attacks by Russian forces in the Kherson region over the last day.
Earlier this month, Ukraine claimed an intercepted phone call between two men talking in Russian proves that a Russian “sabotage group” was behind the destruction of the dam.
The domestic Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) posted a one-and-a-half-minute clip of the alleged conversation on its Telegram page, according to Reuters.
“They (the Ukrainians) didn’t strike it. That was our sabotage group,” the news agency reported one of the men – described by the SBU as a Russian soldier — saying in the recording. “They wanted to, like, scare (people) with that dam.”
“It didn’t go according to plan, and (they did) more than what they planned for,” the man reportedly added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.