Russian President Vladimir Putin has addressed the Nova Kakhovka dam blast in public comments on Wednesday for the first time, charging that it was a "barbaric act" of the Ukrainian government and its military forces.
Russia's defense and foreign ministries had already laid blame on Kiev for the "catastrophic" attack. Putin's comments came during a phone call to Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan - the first since his reelection. Putin offered Erdogan congratulations, but the two also discussed in-depth the dam disaster which has deeply impacted both Crimea and southern Ukraine as people are flooded out of their homes and towns. Evacuations and rescue efforts continue.
Putin told Erdogan in the phone call that the breach was "a barbaric act which has led to a large-scale environmental and humanitarian catastrophe."
The two leaders agreed to be in regular communication, with the Kremlin readout saying, "It has been agreed to maintain regular personal dialogue."
Erdogan on the same day held a call with Ukraine's President Zelensky, and conveyed that he supports an independent commission to investigate the dam breach and destruction under the auspices of the UN. Regional authorities have said flooding could continue for ten more days.
"President Erdogan said that a commission could be established with the participation of experts from the warring parties, the United Nations and the international community, including Turkey, for a detailed investigation into the explosion at Kakhovka dam," a readout said.
Meanwhile, it appears even the White House press pool has grown skeptical regarding the allegations pushed by Ukraine that Russia blew up the dam...
Official American pronouncements on the Ukraine war are incredible. pic.twitter.com/EgFfyVJ9OL— Max Abrahms (@MaxAbrahms) June 7, 2023
Here's how the awkward exchange with White House NSC spokesman John Kirby went on Tuesday:
Journalist: Does it really seem plausible to you that Russia destroyed the dam, thereby flooding the settlements where ethnic Russians live, and at the same time cutting off the water supply to Crimea? In my opinion, there is no more logic here than in undermining your own gas pipeline, don't you think?
Kirby: We haven't come to a conclusion yet. We are working with the Ukrainian side and trying to get as much information as possible.
It remains that Kiev might not want a real UN investigation into the matter, for all the reasons we highlighted here. All of this also comes the same week The Washington Post produced a surprise report pointing to Ukrainian guilt in sabotaging the Nord Stream pipelines as well.