Russia floundering in ‘mud of lies’ over Kakhovka dam destruction, Ukraine tells UN

Russia’s UN envoy was accused of floundering in a “mud of lies” after he claimed at an emergency session of the security council that Ukraine destroyed Kakhovka dam in a “war crime”.

Sergiy Kyslytsya, the Ukraine envoy to the UN, said it was typical of Russia to blame the victim for its own crimes, pointing out Russia has been in control of the dam for more than a year and it was physically impossible to blow it up by shelling. He said the dam was mined by the Russian occupiers and they blew it up. He accused Russia of “floundering again in the mud of lies”.

Related: Dam breach could be Ukraine’s ‘worst ecological disaster since Chornobyl’

“By resorting to scorched earth tactics, or in this case to flooded earth tactics, the Russian occupiers have effectively recognised that the captured territory does not belong to them, and they are not able to hold these lands,” Kyslytsya said.

Neither the French, US or British representatives at the UN directly said there was evidence of Russian responsibility, but called for an investigation and insisted their support for Ukraine was unwavering.

Outside the UN security council chamber, the deputy US ambassador to the UN, Robert Wood, said: “We’re not certain at all, we hope to have more information in the coming days.

“But, I mean, come on … why would Ukraine do this to its own territory and people, flood its land, force tens of thousands of people to leave their homes – it doesn’t make sense.”

The UN security council holds an emergency meeting on the situation in Ukraine
The UN security council holds an emergency meeting on the situation in Ukraine. Photograph: Xinhua/Shutterstock

Vasily Nebenzya, the Russian envoy to the UN, claimed Ukraine had committed an unthinkable crime. His main supportive evidence was an article in the Washington Post in which Andriy Kovalchuk, Ukraine’s southern commander, claimed Ukraine had tested strikes on the dam.

Nebenzya said the west was responsible for a coordinated disinformation campaign full of flawed logic that “reeks of schizophrenia and not of a latent variety”. He said the attack was part of an effort to distract from Ukraine’s clearly bogged down military offensive that was failing to meet its objectives.

“We are deeply bewildered that the UN secretariat repeatedly fails to condemn the attacks perpetrated by the Kyiv regime citing insufficient information. The secretary’s leadership does not hesitate to replicate politicised conclusions that suggest all such crimes are as a result of Russia’s actions in Ukraine,” he said.

Martin Griffiths, the UN humanitarian envoy, did not accuse Russia of responsibility for the humanitarian disaster, saying investigations would be held, but he asserted that the incident would not have occurred if it were not for Russia’s invasion.

The UN “has no access to independent information on the circumstances that led to the destruction in the hydroelectric power plants”, he said, but added that the destruction of the dam was one of the most significant pieces of damage to Ukrainian infrastructure since the war started and would have grave consequences for thousands of people, as well as the environment.

An emergency response was under way to help 16,000 people, Griffiths said, pointing out that the dam was a key source of support to agriculture for south Kherson as well as livestock, and its destruction would be a massive blow to food production and clean water supply into Crimea.

He warned that the risks of mine and explosive ordnance contamination had increased as fast-moving water washed them into areas previously assessed as safe, thus putting people in further, unpredictable danger.