Who blew up the Ukrainian Kakhovka dam and why it can cause a new Chernobyl

The strategic Kakhovka dam was destroyed by an explosion, releasing water that is flooding an area of ​​tens of thousands of hectares. Ukraine claims it was the Russians to prevent their expected counteroffensive (Ukrainian Presidential Office via AP)

A new case like that of North Streamthe gas pipeline that went from Russia to Germany and was blown up in September of last year in the North Sea. Speculations have continued ever since as to who did it and who was good for it. Was Russia to starve Europe of gas in retaliation for its support for Ukraine? Was it Ukraine to end cheap gas for Europe and for the EU to give it all the support it needs to get rid of the Russian invaders? We do not know yet. All can be. The same is happening right now: the world is wondering who blew up Ukraine’s crucial Kakhovka dam and for what purpose. Was it the Russians to prevent the advance of the Ukrainian counteroffensive that has been preparing for months? Was it the Ukrainians to flood Russian controlled areas and make water scarce in the occupied Crimean peninsula?

the safety of Kakhovkathe second largest of the Dnipro River’s cascade of six dams and a vital source of water and power for the region, has been a constant concern since the Russian invasion in February 2022, with both sides accusing each other of conspiring to destroy it.

Of course, this action of the last dawn is much more serious than that of the North Sea. Affects the Zhaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Eastern Europe, which is in the hands of Russian forces that keep Ukrainian technicians as slave laborers. The water controlled by the Kakhovka dam is essential to maintain the temperature of the plant. The Argentinian Rafael GrossiCEO of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)Although he said that the situation was still under control, he warned this morning at an emergency meeting in Geneva that “we are facing a possible disaster of enormous magnitude.” Another Chernobyl.

sabotage kajokva dam flood ukraine infographic

The reactors are shut down, but they still need water to cool the fuel in their cores. The cooling pools for spent fuel and new fuel waiting to be loaded into the reactors also need circulating water. The plant has a specific cooling tank that is now at risk. energoatomthe state nuclear company, stated that for now the plant has enough water and that Ukrainian workers are monitoring the situation.

The environmental disaster could also be extraordinary. The waters are already covering tens of thousands of arable hectares. Vitaliy Selykfounder of the volunteer group Smileyvi Vidnovliuvaty (Brave to rebuild), stated that the flooding of drained lands and, conversely, the exposure of the sandy bottom of the rivers, will cause climatic changes in a very short time, such as dust storms, changes in precipitation, an increase in temperature and more frequent droughts in southern Ukraine. The first images already show devastated crops and wild animals escaping to the highest areas.

There is also concern about the lack of energy that until now the dam produced. Since the damage to the hydroelectric power station seems irreparable (explosions destroyed the plant’s engine room), Ukraine lost a flexible power source that makes it difficult for the entire country’s grid to function. The plant had a capacity of 357 megawatts and produced 1.4 terawatt-hours per year. It was also profitable, contributing 44 million Hr ($1.2 million) to the national budget and 6.1 million Hr ($167,000) to local budgets in 2019. Former Energy Minister, Ivan Plachkovtold the Kyiv media that the destruction will cause problems in the infrastructure of water and energy supplyas distribution networks, substations and power lines face submersion.

The Nova Kakhovka House of Culture after the nearby dam was blown up early this morning (Alexey Konovalov/TASS/Handout via REUTERS)
The Nova Kakhovka House of Culture after the nearby dam was blown up this morning (Alexey Konovalov/TASS/Handout via REUTERS) (TASS/)

And there is the human cost. Tens of thousands of people living in towns and cities on the banks of the Dnieper River are being evacuated at this time. Nova Kakhovka It’s already under a meter of water. In Antonivka, still in Ukrainian hands, there are reports that rescue patrols are under fire from Russian snipers on the other side. The busy city of Kherson It’s going to be flooded in the next few hours. In the Ukrainian zone, preparations are already being made to receive about 40,000 refugees from that area.

Serhiy Zguretsdirector of the consultancy Defense Expressspecializing in military issues, told the newspaper Kyiv Independent that the flood was going to delay the recent counter-offensive. “The government and the military are now going to have to divert resources to help the people and mitigate the damage instead of turning their efforts to counterattacking Russia. And the vastness of the flooded areas will make it difficult for Ukrainian special forces, such as airborne troops, to cause damage to Russia’s ‘Dnipro Force Group’, as the Kremlin has dubbed it. That may leave this grouping free to attack the flank of a possible Ukrainian strike force in the Zaporizhzhia region,” Zgurets explained. The head of the Ukrainian intelligence services, Kyrylo Budanovcalculated that the flooding was to delay military plans by “a maximum of two weeks.”

Both the dam area and the delta are considered vulnerable points for Russian forces, and the flooding ended – at least for now – with any possible Ukrainian attempt to cross the Dnipro river around Kherson/Nova Kakhovka, widening the barrier that separates both forces. Russian defensive positions were already concentrated on higher ground on the southern bank, in Olekshy and hi pristan.

The blowing up of Kakhovka also made the Ukrainians lose the possibility of using the road that crosses the top of the dam for a possible line of attack across the river, leaving only the bridge. Antonivsky in the city of Kherson as a paved crossing of the river. The flooding could also allow Russian reserves to the south to block any advance on Melitopol. And it could free up troop reserves concentrated in the south to direct them elsewhere.

Red Cross volunteers help evacuate thousands of people who were trapped in Nova Kakhovka by the waters of the blown dam (REUTERS)
Red Cross volunteers help evacuate thousands of people who were trapped in Nova Kakhovka by the waters of the blown dam (REUTERS) (STRINGER /)

Meanwhile, the war of words continues in which both sides reproach the other for what happened. Ukrainian President, Volodimir Zelensky, blamed “Russian terrorists”, while the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry S.Peskovpointed to the Ukrainian forces, describing what happened as a “sabotage” attack. “They decided that now, in this way, they will be able to stop the counteroffensive of the Ukrainian forces,” he told Radio Svoboda, Natalia Humeniukspokesman for the southern command of Ukraine. Sergey ShoiguThe Russian defense minister said the Ukrainians destroyed the dam “to transfer forces and equipment harassing Kherson to other parts of the front to help their counteroffensive.”

NATO chief Jens Stoltenbergcalled it “outrageous act” which demonstrates the brutality of Russia. The President of the European Commission, Charles Michelsaid Russia would be held accountable for a flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention. This basic international standard to limit war conflicts establishes that “works and installations containing dangerous forces, namely dams, dikes and nuclear power plants, shall not be the object of attack, even when such objects are military objectives, if such attack may cause the release of dangerous forces and consequent serious losses among the civilian population.”

Happened. Once again international norms were violated. And the consequences will be dangerous on a global level.

Keep reading:

The UN secretary general said the destruction of the Kakhovka dam is “another devastating consequence” of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

19 shocking images of the floods in Kherson after the destruction of the Ukrainian dam