The death toll from the June 6 collapse of the Kakhovka Dam is up to 45 people, 29 of them in Russian-occupied territory and 16 in areas held by Ukraine.
In some of the southern Ukraine provinces downstream from the dam, water contamination is becoming an increasingly dire problem following the massive flooding that has devastated dozens of towns along the lower Dnieper River and led to an ecological catastrophe, threatening crops and killing millions of fish.
And the evidence increasingly points to an explosion set off by Russia as the cause.
A New York Times report Sunday said the Russians knew the weak spot in the Soviet-era dam, a passageway that ran through the concrete block at its base, and most likely detonated explosives there to create the breach.
“The evidence clearly suggests the dam was crippled by an explosion set off by the side that controls it: Russia,’’ said the Times, which cited engineers in reaching its conclusion and also said the American government subscribes to that theory.
Also Sunday, The Associated Press wrote that based on information and drone photos it obtained, “Russia had the means, motive and opportunity to bring down” the dam.
Earlier in the weekend, a group of international legal experts helping Ukrainian authorities investigate the disaster said it was “highly likely” the Russians blew up the dam, Reuters reported. The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War has also determined the Russians probably were behind the explosion.
Ukrainian officials have blamed the invading forces all along for the attack, suggesting it was orchestrated to slow down Ukraine’s counteroffensive. The Kremlin has said Ukrainian shelling caused the dam to fail.
∎ Ukrainian forces destroyed a “very significant” ammunition depot near the Russian-occupied port city of Henichesk in Kherson province, according to Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesperson of the regional government in Odesa province.
∎ Ukraine recaptured the village of Piatykhatky in Zaporizhzhia province, said Vladimir Rogov, an official with the Moscow-appointed administration in that partially occupied region.
∎ The delegation of African leaders who met with the heads of the warring parties Friday and Saturday did not report any progress toward their goal of mediating peace talks.
The first 10 days or so of the counteroffensive have yielded small gains for Ukraine and some effective defensive operations by Russia, both coming at a high cost in casualties, “with the Russian losses likely the highest since the peak of the battle for Bakhmut in March,’’ the British Defense Ministry said in its latest war assessment.
The update also said much of the heavy fighting has been concentrated in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia province, the western part of the neighboring Donetsk province and the areas around Bakhmut in that region.
Ukrainian officials said three civilians were killed and eight wounded in the previous day by Russian strikes in Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces.
The country’s military said Russia had carried out 43 airstrikes, four missile strikes and 51 attacks from multiple rocket launchers in the last 24 hours. According to a statement by the Ukraine’s General Staff, Russia’s offensive operations remained focused on the industrial east, and there have been 26 combat clashes around Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Marinka and Lyman in Donetsk province.
At a time when Sweden’s application to join NATO is being held up, a report by a Swedish parliament defense committee says a military attack from Russia can’t be ruled out, according to Swedish public broadcaster SVT.
The report, which SVT says it has seen before Monday’s release, urges Swedish leaders to prepare for such an eventuality, saying Russia remains capable of launching an assault despite all the resources it has committed to the war in Ukraine.
“Russia has further lowered its threshold for the use of military force and exhibits a high political and military risk appetite,” the security analysis says, according to SVT. “Russia’s ability to carry out operations with air forces, naval forces, long-range weapons or nuclear weapons against Sweden remains intact. Russia also has the ability to operate with special forces.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted Sweden and Finland to abandon their decades-long policy of nonalignment and pursue entry into NATO together. Finland was granted membership on April 4, but its fellow Nordic country has yet to gain the approval of Turkey and Hungary − unanimity is required − because of disagreements regarding Sweden’s handling of what Turkey regards as terrorist groups. Hungary has mainly remained in lockstep with Turkey.
Contributing: The Associated Press