Minister for Development Cooperation wants to send B-Fast team to Ukraine

Belgian Development minister Caroline Gennez will propose the government sends a team from B-FAST to Kherson in Ukraine, she said on Radio 1 on Thursday. B-FAST is the Belgian government's rapid response team that goes abroad in the event of major disasters.

The region around Kherson in Ukraine is flooded after the Nova Kakhovka dam was destroyed on Tuesday. "I wouldn't be against suggesting to my government colleagues to investigate sending a B-FAST team to the scene," Gennez said. "B-FAST is very hands-on. They have experience. They just recently sent a team to Italy to go and counter the effects of flooding."

The item will be on the agenda of the Council of Ministers tomorrow, she said. "But we also have to make sure that we act in a well-coordinated way and cooperate with the relief organisations on the ground. There is no point in getting in each other's way there."

Zelensky critical of international response

The proposal comes after Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, criticised the international response to the disaster. “Large-scale efforts are needed,” he said during an address on Wednesday evening. “If an international organisation is not present in the disaster zone, it means it does not exist at all or is incapable." But "they aren’t here”, Zelenskiy told Bild in an interview. “We have had no response. I am shocked.”

He also claimed that rescuers were being shot at by Russian soldiers. "When our forces try to get [residents] out, they are shot at by occupiers from a distance,” he said. “As soon as our helpers try to rescue them, they are shot at."

"When our forces try to get [residents] out, they are shot at by occupiers from a distance”

Local media have reported that five people have died as a result of flooding so far. They are the first confirmed deaths from Tuesday's disaster.

It has not been confirmed who is responsible for destroying the dam. While the head of Russian-occupied areas in Kherson claimed that Russia could militarily benefit from the massive floods, the US think tank Institute for the Study of War concluded that the dam burst had a major negative impact on Russian army defence lines at the Dnipro river.


B-FAST aid workers boarding a plane to Turkey © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK


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