Zelenskiy accuses Russia of plotting to blow up Ukrainian dam

President says destruction of Nova Kakhovka dam would mean large-scale disaster for towns and cities

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has accused Russia of plotting to blow up the two-mile Nova Kakhovka dam in the south of the country, warning its destruction would cause “a large-scale disaster” affecting towns and cities.

The 30 metre-high dam, which holds back 18m cubic metres of water, straddles the Dnieper River upstream from Russian-held Kherson and is about 20 miles from advancing Ukrainian forces hoping to recapture both it and the occupied city.

In his nightly address on Thursday, Zelenskiy said he had told European leaders that “Russian terrorists” had mined the dam, which if blown would have repercussions that would affect Crimea as well as the surrounding region.

Ukrainian military intelligence said on Friday that Russia had conducted the main mining works back in April, but warned that the floodgates and supports of the dam were further primed in the past week. Two military vehicles full of explosives were placed on the road that crosses the dam, the agency added.


“Now everyone in the world must act powerfully and quickly to prevent a new Russian terrorist attack. Destroying the dam would mean a large-scale disaster,” Zelenskiy warned amid concern in Kyiv that Russia would blame any breach of the dam on Ukraine.

Russian propagandists have been circulating graphics online showing a possible flood path, leading the Institute for the Study of War thinktank to conclude that Moscow “is likely continuing to prepare for a false flag attack” by the retreating forces.

Sergei Surovikin, the commander of Russian forces, said on Tuesday he had information that Ukrainian forces were preparing a massive strike on the dam and warned of a disaster if it was breached.

“We have information on the possibility of the Kyiv regime using prohibited methods of war in the area of the city of Kherson, on the preparation by Kyiv of a massive missile strike on the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam,” Surovikin said.

Ukraine began a counteroffensive in the Kherson region west of the Dnieper in September, and over the past month has been gradually pushing back Russian forces closer to both the dam and the city of Kherson itself. This week Russia announced that it would begin evacuating civilians from the city, actions widely seen as a precursor to either giving up the city or leaving it lightly defended.

The military intelligence statement also warned that “dozens of Ukrainian settlements, including Kherson” could be affected by a breach and that “the scale of the ecological disaster will go far beyond the borders of Ukraine and affect the entire Black Sea region”.

Zelenskiy said that destroying the dam would also lead to the destruction of the nearby North Crimean canal, which supplies water to the Russian-held peninsula, and which had only been reopened by the invading force earlier this year.

“And if Russia is preparing such a terrorist attack, if it is seriously considering such a scenario, it means the terrorists are clearly aware that they will not be able to keep not only Kherson, but also the entire south of our country, including Crimea,” Zelenskiy added.


Dan Sabbagh and Artem Mazhulin in Kyiv

The GuardianTramp

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