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Putin accuses Ukraine of destroying the Kakhovka Dam at behest of West


By Guy Faulconbridge

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday accused Ukraine of destroying the Kakhovka dam at the suggestion of the West, in what he called a “barbaric” war crime that escalated the conflict with Moscow.

The vast Soviet-era Kakhovka dam, under Russian control, was breached in the early hours of Tuesday, unleashing floodwaters across a swathe of the battleground in southern Ukraine.

Ukraine blamed Russia for blowing it up. Russia said Ukraine sabotaged the dam to constrict water supplies to Crimea and to distract from a faltering offensive. Some Russian-backed officials in the area said the dam may have collapsed.

“Vladimir Putin stated that the Kyiv authorities, at the suggestion of their Western curators, are still making a dangerous bet on the escalation of hostilities, committing war crimes, openly using terrorist methods, and organising sabotage on Russian territory,” the Kremlin quoted Putin as saying.

“A clear example of this is the barbaric action to destroy the Kakhovskaya hydro-electric power plant in the Kherson region which led to a large–scale environmental and humanitarian catastrophe,” Putin was quoted as saying.

The Kremlin said the remarks were made during a phone call with Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan. It made no reference to any evidence to back Putin’s allegation.

With the dam collapsed, some of the 18-cubic-kilometres (4.3 cubic miles) of water held in the reservoir is now flooding a swathe of southern Ukraine, including areas controlled by Russian forces.

Putin ordered Emergency Situations Minister Alexander Kurenkov to head rescue efforts in the area, the RIA news agency quoted Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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