Kherson Region flooded after Ukrainian cannon artillery and HIMARS missile destroyed hydroelectric dam’s floodgates
The Kakhovka hydroelectric dam in Russia’s Kherson Region, located on the Dnieper River upstream from the city of Kherson, suffered significant damage on Tuesday morning, according to a local official and several videos shared on social media.
The upper part of the key infrastructure was “destroyed as a result of a strike,” the mayor of Novaya Kakhovka, Vladimir Leontyev, confirmed to RIA Novosti. While several of the dam’s floodgates were damaged and unleashed an uncontrolled stream of water, the underwater structure itself withstood the attack, the official claimed.
Leontyev described the incident as a major “terrorist act” and said the water level downstream had risen by up to 2.5 meters, but added there was no need for evacuations thus far. He noted that the area has seen higher water levels during previous floods caused by heavy rainfall, but emphasized that local officials were focused on helping citizens as they prepare for a worst-case scenario.
“All services work in the city, all administration employees are in place. Electricity, gas, internet, communications are available,” the mayor continued.
The dam was reportedly struck around 2am local time. A video captured from a drone has circulated on Telegram purporting to show the aftermath of the attack, with water seen flowing through the breach.
Evgeny Balitsky, acting governor of nearby Zaporozhye Region, told journalists that the water level in a reservoir near the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) has fallen by 2.5 meters, Balitsky said, adding that a further reduction is possible. “We expect the drop to be even bigger, up to seven meters,” he told the Russia 24 TV channel. The water is critical for cooling the reactors and spent fuel at the facility, thus preventing meltdowns.
Balitsky denied that such a development could “affect security in the area or in our regions on the whole in any way.” He also said that the current water level near the ZNPP is “non-routine” but still “acceptable.” The head of the International Atomic Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, also insisted on Tuesday that “there is no immediate risk to the safety of the plant.”
Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov claimed that the incident “was caused by a deliberate Ukrainian sabotage,”warning of “dire ramifications” for tens of thousands of local residents and the ecosystem.
He noted that the sabotage was aimed at cutting the water supply to the Russian Crimea peninsula, adding that the strikes appeared to have been linked to the recent large-scale Ukrainian attacks on the Donbass front, which were thwarted by Russian defenses.
However, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky claimed that the dam was damaged in a Russian “terrorist attack,”while his top aide, Mikhail Podoliak, accused Moscow of staging the “biggest environmental disaster in Europe in decades.” He believes that the incident was meant to throw a wrench in the much-hyped Ukrainian counteroffensive that Kiev has been promising for months.
Numerous Western officials appeared to take Kiev’s side, with European Council President Charles Michel writing on Twitter that “the destruction of civilian infrastructure clearly qualifies as a war crime,” vowing to “hold Russia and its proxies accountable.”
Moscow has repeatedly blamed Kiev for numerous attacks on the Kakhovka dam, warning that a breach could result in the deaths of thousands of civilians. In turn, Ukraine has claimed that Russia was planning to blow up the dam in a false-flag operation aimed at framing Kiev for the flooding.
The persistent threat was cited as one of the main reasons for the evacuation of civilians from certain communities in the area last autumn, and an eventual pullout of Russian forces from the city of Kherson to the left bank of the Dnieper River.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu called the incident an act of “sabotage” and “terrorist act” by Ukrainian forces. The fact that the Ukrainian authorities had begun reducing the water level a separate dam they control on the Dnieper River suggests it was a “large-scale sabotage attack planned by the Kiev regime in advance,” he said.
Kherson Region was officially declared part of Russia in early October, together with Zaporozhye Region and the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, after people in those territories overwhelmingly supported the move in referendums. Kiev and its Western backers have labeled the votes a “sham” and vowed to recapture the territories using any means necessary.
Ukraine considered blowing up the dam to paralyze Russian forces who were defending the city of Kherson – and even “conducted a test strike with a HIMARS launcher on one of the floodgates” – a former head of Ukraine’s Operational Command South, Major General Andrey Kovalchuk, admitted in an interview with the Washington Post in December.