Rescuers in the Russian-occupied areas of the Kherson region affected by the flooding caused by the destruction of the Kakhovka dam earlier this week, are refusing to help Ukrainians who don’t have a Russian passport. 

The destruction of the dam in southern Ukraine, on Tuesday June 6, unleashed mass downstream flooding along the course of the Dnieper River. Some of the worst flooding is along the left (southern) bank which remains under Russian occupation. 

With international humanitarian agencies unable or unwilling to enter these areas without security assurances from the Kremlin, following reported shelling by Russian forces of evacuation attempts by Ukrainian agencies, it has been left to Russian occupiers to protect and preserve the lives of the thousands who are affected.

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It has now been reported that Russian forces and its proxies in the occupied areas are refusing to evacuate or otherwise help those not in possession of a Russian passport, according to a report by the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces on June 10 which has been confirmed by media correspondents working in the area.

Reports from Oleshky, an occupied town across the Dnieper from the city of Kherson which had a pre-war population of 24,000, say that Russian forces are taking possession of the boats being used to rescue Ukrainians stranded by the floodwater, have set up checkpoints and are turning back anyone trying to leave the area who does not have a Russian passport.

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“Russian soldiers are standing at the checkpoints, preventing [rescuers] from approaching the most affected areas and taking away the boats,” said one volunteer, Yaroslav Vasiliev. “They are afraid of saboteurs, they suspect everyone.”

There are reports that those who have houses and apartments on higher ground and who have escaped the worst of the flooding, are being forced out so that Russian troops can use the buildings as billets.

This is in sharp contrast to what is happening in Ukrainian-controlled territory, where the authorities mobilized emergency support within hours of the incident and are evacuating civilians and bringing in emergency supplies as well as planning remedial support once the floodwater subsides.

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On Thursday, June 8, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy travelled to the area to assess the damage and offer support to the residents. Whereas Russian President Vladimir Putin “has no plans at the current moment” to visit affected Moscow-occupied areas, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

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