Ukraine accused Russia of have mined the Kajovka damessential to supply water to the peninsula of crimeaannexed by Russia, but whose destruction would submerge a good part of southern Ukraine.
Both the dam and the hydroelectric plant, located in the south of the country, were seized by Russian troops at the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Built on the Dnieper River, the dam’s embankment, made of concrete and earth, is 16 meters high and 3,850 meters long. It is one of the largest infrastructures of this type in Ukraine.
The power of the hydroelectric plant is 334.8 megawatts, according to the website of the Ukrainian operator, Ukrgidroenergo.
Built in 1956 during Soviet times, the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam allows water to be sent to the North Crimean Canal, which leaves southern Ukraine and runs through the entire Crimean peninsula.
Upstream of the structure is the Kakhovka Reservoir, an artificial water reservoir formed on the Dnieper River, 240 km long and up to 23 km wide.
On Thursday, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyaccused Russian forces of having placed mines in the dam and some parts of the plant.
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Prime Minister Denys Chmygal, for his part, called for an international observation mission for the dam. “International experts and Ukrainian personnel must arrive immediately [al lugar]”, he urged.
Kakhovka is located about 60 kilometers east of Kherson, the first major Ukrainian city to fall, in March, to the Russian offensive. The front is about 40 kilometers to the north.
If the dam explodes, “more than 80 towns, including Kherson, will be in the rapid flood zone,” Zelensky warned before the Council of the European Union, which brings together the leaders of the 27 member states of the bloc.
“This could destroy the water supply of a large part of southern Ukraine”and affect the cooling of the reactors of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, which obtains its water in that artificial lake of 18 million cubic meters, Zelensky added.
The goal of the Russians is to stop the advance of Ukrainian troops in the region and protect their forces, said one of Zelensky’s advisers, Mikhailo Podoliak, on Twitter.
The Russian occupation authorities in Kherson denied having placed mines in the dam and denounced the “lies” of the Ukrainian president.
A problem in Kakhovka would create difficulties for Crimea’s water supply, controlled by the Russians since 2014 and which Ukraine is trying to recapture.
Pro-Russian separatists declared on Friday that they were turning Kherson into a “fortress” to prepare their defense. Russia evacuates the inhabitants of this region before the advance of the troops of kyiv.
(With information from AFP)
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