Ukraine has accused Russian forces of blowing up a large dam and hydroelectric power station, causing ‘catastrophic’ flooding that could displace hundreds of thousands of people and cause a nuclear disaster by cutting off cooling at a nuclear power plant.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine confirmed this morning that the Kakhovka dam on the Dnieper River, in the south of the country, was damaged by several explosions and asked residents of 10 villages on the right bank of the river, as well as parts of the city of Kherson downriver, to evacuate their homes.
Both the dam and the hydroelectric power station were captured by Putin’s forces as a priority at the start of the Russian invasion on February 24 last year.
Ukraine said Russia had destroyed it, possibly to prevent Kiev forces from proceeding with a counter-offensive in the southern Kherson region, while Russian officials gave conflicting accounts.
Here’s what we know so far about the destruction of the Kakhovka dam, the latest twist to unfold in Russia’s 16-month invasion of Ukraine.
This screenshot from a video posted to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Twitter account on June 6, 2023, shows an aerial view of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station dam after it was partially destroyed.
An explosion is seen at the destroyed Kakhovka hydroelectric power station in the occupied Kherson region of Ukraine, on June 6, 2023. Water was thrown 40 feet into the air amid the explosions.
Floods continue in the occupied Kherson region after the destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station
What is the Kakhovka dam?
The Kakhovka Dam, located in southern Ukraine on the Dnieper River, is a major hydraulic engineering project that plays a crucial role in the region’s water management and energy production.
Built between 1947 and 1956, the dam was designed to regulate the flow of the Dnieper River, control flooding, and generate hydroelectric power.
It is a massive structure measuring 98 feet (30 meters) high and 2 miles (3.2 km) long.
The dam is not only used to generate hydroelectric power, but also supplies much of the drinking water for the northern part of Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.
Water from the dam is also diverted to the east to be pumped around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, to cool the reactors.
The Kakhovka Dam has a huge reservoir of 18 cubic kilometers of water, a volume almost equal to that of the Great Salt Lake in the US state of Utah.
A satellite image shows the Nova Kakhovka dam in the Kherson region of Ukraine on June 5, 2023, before the attack.
What happened at the dam?
It is still unclear exactly what caused the explosions and both sides have blamed each other, although Ukrainian officials said last year that Russia had mined the dam as its forces withdrew from the city of Kherson and some videos circulating on Telegram appeared to show explosions. of mines near the hydroelectric plant.
Ukraine, which commented first, said Russia was responsible.
‘Russian terrorists. The destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station dam only confirms for the whole world that they must be expelled from all corners of the Ukrainian land,” President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
“The goal of the terrorists is obvious: to create obstacles for the offensive actions of the armed forces,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak said.
“The Kakhovka (reservoir) was blown up by the Russian occupation forces,” the Ukrainian Armed Forces Southern command said, with defense officials claiming that Russian forces carried out the attacks to hinder a Ukrainian counter-offensive.
Finally, Ukraine’s state hydroelectric company said that the plant was destroyed by an explosion in the engine room, suggesting that it was attacked from within and not by external attacks.
By contrast, the Russian-installed Kherson administration said Ukraine shelled the dam around 2300 GMT, damaging the hydraulic valves.
“On Tuesday, June 6, the Ukrainian armed forces attacked the hydroelectric dam, as a result of which the upper part of the hydraulic structure was damaged,” it said.
Other Russian-installed officials said no attack took place.
Vladimir Rogov, a Russian official based in Zaporizhzhia, said the dam collapsed due to previous damage and water pressure.
Russia’s state news agency TASS published a report to the same effect.
What is the human impact?
With the water levels rising, many thousands of people are likely to be affected, and evacuations of civilians began on both sides of the front line.
Environmental safety expert Maksym Soroka warned that the potential damage that flooding could cause “can be easily compared to [an] atomic bomb explosion’, given the devastation that could result if the dam were to breach completely.
The World Data Center for Geoinformatics and Sustainable Development, a Ukrainian non-governmental organization, estimated that almost 100 towns and cities would be flooded in total.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said up to 80 settlements were at risk of flooding, while Russian-based officials said some 22,000 people living in 14 settlements in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine were at risk. .
In Crimea, meanwhile, the Russian-backed peninsula said on Tuesday there was a risk that water levels in the North Crimean Canal, which brings fresh water to the peninsula from the Dnieper River, could drop after the breach. of the dam
The Crimean peninsula depends on fresh water from the canal. Ukraine previously blocked water supplies to Crimea after Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014, leading to water shortages in the region.
A plethora of videos and images circulating on social media revealed the scale of the catastrophic flooding just hours after the dam was hit.
A house was seen floating in the middle of the deluge and large tracts of countryside and villages near Kherson were submerged.
A local Russian-installed mayor warned that the water level would continue to rise for another 72 hours, saying he expected 40-foot-high flooding in some places.
Kherson is seen flooded after the Kakhovka dam was damaged in a series of explosions
Drone camera showed the extent of the flooding: water is seen flowing over the top of the damaged dam
Is there a risk of a nuclear disaster?
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, gets its cooling water from the reservoir. It is located on the southern side, now under Russian control.
The explosion at the dam has raised concerns about a possible collapse at the plant if the reactors cannot be cooled down.
Ukraine’s state atomic energy agency confirmed that the destruction of the dam poses a threat to the Zaporizhzhia plant, but the situation at the facility is currently under control as the reservoir can still provide sufficient cooling.
“Water from the Kakhovka reservoir is necessary for the station to receive power for the ZNPP’s turbine condensers and security systems,” Energoatom said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.
“Right now, the station’s cooling pond is full: at 8 am, the water level is 16.6 meters, which is sufficient for the station’s needs.”
The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said on Twitter that it was closely monitoring the situation, but that there was “no immediate nuclear security risk at (the) plant.”
“Currently, the situation in the ZNPP is under control, Ukrainian personnel are monitoring all indicators,” he said.
Russia’s state nuclear power company Rosatom said on Tuesday there was no threat to the Moscow-controlled nuclear plant.
I am Rakesh Sharma, I associated with Elite News as an Editor, since 2021. I take care of all the news operations like content, budget, hiring and policy making.