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The Kakhovka dam, one of six dams on the Dnipro that carves through central and southern Ukraine, was captured at the start of Moscow’s February 2022 invasion.

“The rise of the Dnipro’s water level, as a result of which settlements in the Zaporizhzhia region were flooded, is linked to the Russian occupation of the Kakhovka dam,” state company Ukrhydroenergo, which owns the dams, said in a statement.

It said the 17m level in the pool held back by the dam was a metre higher than normal for this time of year.

But it said it was unable to say what exactly Russian forces were doing at the dam because it did not have access itself.

The Russian Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a written request for comment about the Ukrainian allegation.

A Russian energy official warned earlier this month that the dam risked being overwhelmed by record-high water levels.

Inna Rybalko, an official from Ukraine’s state waterways agency, said this spring had seen an unusually high amount of rain, with 3.5 times the regular amount of monthly rainfall recorded nationwide in April.

Puffing on a cigarette in his inundated kitchen, Medunov said he believed Russian forces were deliberately flooding the area to get at Ukrainian military positions.

Both Russia and Ukraine have accused each of plotting to breach the dam using explosives. Such a move would flood much of the area downstream and likely cause major destruction. Russia accused Ukraine of firing a rocket at the dam last November.

Medunov’s son, 39-year-old Dmytro, said the cost of repairs would devastate his family: “Inside it’s all rotten, all covered in mould … Wood, insulation. The costs will be very painful.”

Dmytro lives in the regional capital Zaporizhzhia, and visited the river island every weekend until the invasion.

His visits have become rarer due to a wartime ban on civilian craft on this stretch of the Dnipro. He now has to catch lifts from police or military boats, which are currently the island’s only lifeline for food and supplies.

Medunov and his wife Natalia, who have five dogs, plan to stay on the island rather than move to Zaporizhzhia with their son. If the water level rises further, they may move to another building, he said.

“There’s a house which has a second floor,” he said.