KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine on Tuesday accused Russian forces of blowing up a major dam and hydroelectric power station in a part of southern Ukraine that Russia controls, sending water gushing from the breached facility and risking massive flooding.
Ukrainian authorities ordered hundreds of thousands of residents downriver to evacuate.
Russian officials countered that the Kakhovka dam was damaged by Ukrainian military strikes in the contested area.
Ukrainian authorities have previously warned that the failure of the Kakhovka dam could unleash 18 million cubic meters (4.8 billion gallons) of water and flood Kherson and dozens of other areas downriver where hundreds of thousands of people live, as well as threatening a nearby Russian-occupied nuclear power plant.
Ukraine’s nuclear operator Energoatom said in a Telegram statement that the blowing up of the dam “could have negative consequences for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” but at the moment the situation is “controllable.”
According to the Ukraine War Environmental Consequences Working Group, a total collapse in the dam would wash away much of the left bank and a severe drop in the reservoir has the potential to deprive the nuclear plant of crucial cooling, as well as dry up the water supply in northern Crimea.
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry wrote on Telegram that the Kakhovka dam had been blown up, and called for residents of 10 villages on the river’s right bank and parts of the city of Kherson downriver to gather essential documents and pets, turn off appliances, and leave, while cautioning against possible disinformation.
The Russian-installed mayor of Nova Kakhovka Vladimir Leontyev said Tuesday that numerous strikes on the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant destroyed its valves, and “water from the Kakhovka reservoir began to uncontrollably flow downstream.”
Leontyev said the strikes were “a very serious terrorist act.”
Ukraine controls five of the six dams along the Dnipro River, which runs from its northern border with Belarus down to the Black Sea and is crucial for the entire country’s drinking water and power supply. The Kakhovka dam — the one furthest downstream — is controlled by Russian forces.
Oleksandr Prokudin, the head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration, said in a video posted to Telegram shortly before 7 a.m. that “the Russian army has committed yet another act of terror,” and warned that water will reach “critical levels” within five hours. (AP)
This satellite image by Maxar Technologies shows the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine on June 5, 2023. Ukraine on June 6 accused Russian forces of blowing up the major dam and hydroelectric power station. / AP
June 06, 2023
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