November 30, 2022

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Kagovka Dam, a weapon of mass destruction?

kyiv reported that the dam of the Khakovka hydropower station, located about forty kilometers from the front line, in the Kherson region, was “mined” by Russian forces. Moscow denies and accuses Ukraine of wanting to destroy this highly strategic infrastructure. The threat made President Volodymyr Zelensky fear a “catastrophe on a large scale.”

As the Ukrainian counteroffensive and the battle of Kherson looms, the Khakovka hydroelectric dam finds itself at the center of attention. Ukraine and can play a vital role in the continuation of the war. Since Thursday, October 20, Kyiv has accused Russia of “exploiting” the dam, a highly strategic piece of infrastructure on the Dnieper River. Ukraine fears “massive catastrophe”. Asks the UN for an international monitoring mission Moscow flatly denies it.

Falling into Russian hands at the start of their offensive, launched on February 24, the Khakovka power station dam, located sixty kilometers east of Kherson in the south of the country, was a strategic target for Moscow.

The main infrastructure of Crimea

And for good reason: this huge hydroelectric dam More than 3,000 meters long, built in the 1950s, it supplies water to the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Moscow in 2014.

Its reservoir is essential for irrigation of the Black Sea lowlands. The dam regulates the waters of the Dnieper and creates an artificial lake that helps maintain the temperature of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant’s reactors.

With the advance of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, the Khakovka Dam, still under Russian control, is now forty kilometers from the front line.

kyiv is sounding the alarm

Ukrainians dread their visit to the site. Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russian forces of “undermining the dam and units of the Khakovka hydroelectric power plant” since Thursday. The Ukrainian president is sounding the alarm over what he calls a “massive catastrophe” that Russia is “consciously” preparing for.

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“We call on the UN, EU and other organizations to organize an international monitoring mission from Khakovka. International experts should come (to the site) immediately, as well as Ukrainian personnel,” the prime minister stressed on Friday. In a government meeting.

On Monday, Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated his accusations against Moscow: “Russian troops cut the dam of the Khakovka hydroelectric power station and are threatening us by threatening to blow it up.”

According to kyiv, thousands of potential victims

Kyiv is right to be afraid, because if the installation is destroyed, the consequences will be catastrophic. The bursting of the dam would create a kind of mini-tsunami and the banks of the Dnieper would be submerged for days. The entire area will be flooded.

According to Ukrainian authorities, a construction explosion could cause several thousand deaths and flood dozens of cities. “More than 80 areas, including the city of Kherson, will find themselves in the zone of rapid flooding,” Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday.

The Ukrainian president also fears that the destruction of the dam, which is 240 km long and 23 km wide, will “destroy the water supply of much of the south of Ukraine”.

Saporicia power plant is under threat

A more devastating scenario is feared. Ukraine fears the installation’s destruction could affect the cooling of reactors at Zaporizhia, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which draws water from the dam’s artificial lake.

Ukrainian military intelligence director Kyrillo Budanov said on Monday, for whom dismantling the dam would “destroy any possibility of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant being inextricably linked (to the Khakovka dam)”.

Towards a “false flag” attack?

As for Q, Russia’s goal in destroying the dam would be to flood the entire area to stop the advance of Ukrainian troops in the region, Mykhailo Podoliak, one of the president’s advisers, said on Twitter.

According to him, what he calls the “Surovikin project” – named after the new commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, Sergei Surovikin – “undermines dams and transformers, forces Ukrainians into exile and floods the territory. Ukrainian counteroffensive”. According to a Ukrainian official, Russia is preparing a “man-made disaster”.


A step Report of the American Think Tank for the Study of War Published last Wednesday, Moscow is preparing a “false flag” attack against the Khakovka hydroelectric plant. Russia may later blame the attack on Ukrainians. After retreating from Kherson, the Russians would launch a volley before pointing the finger at Q.

According to Kiev, demolishing the dam would be a weapon of mass destruction for a struggling Russia; One way for Putin to turn the tide of the war is by delaying the Ukrainian advances.

Moscow’s denial

On the Russian side, we refuse. Pro-Russian officials in the Kherson region have denounced President Zelensky’s “lies” and denied any mines are being installed at the Khakovka dam. However, they are currently carrying out evacuations in the region: faced with the rapid advance of the Ukrainian army, they called on all civilians on Saturday. Leave the regional capital “immediately”..

Among the evacuees, Konstantin, who lives in Kherson and was interviewed by Reuters, arrived in Olechi, a city that could not be flooded if the dam was destroyed. “We are not afraid of war. We are afraid that the Kagovka hydroelectric power station might be bombed,” he said. “I’m afraid for my family, I’m moving (from Gerson) for my family.”

For his part, the Russian general Surovikhin Emphasized since last Tuesday Ukrainian forces are reportedly planning a massive attack on the dam, possibly with US-supplied Himars missiles.

Contact War

In either case the two belligerents engage in a communications war surrounding the attack on the dam, which each stirs as a threat. However, the director of Ukrainian military intelligence, Kyrillo Budanov, qualified President Zelensky’s comments on Monday: “If it explodes, the Khakovka High Dam will reduce Ukrainian forces for only two weeks.” The dam would be “slightly undercut”, not enough to blow it up, as “tons of explosives would be needed to destroy it”. Such an attack, he continued, would represent an environmental disaster at the expense of the Russians: “They would experience a total inundation of the area on the left bank of the Kherson. [occupée par la Russie].”

France 24 Correspondent Gulliver Krak in Ukraine finds the accusations from both camps “unbelievable”. “According to the Ukrainians, the main advantage for the Russians is to blame the Ukrainians. No one will believe them, and then the Ukrainians have no chance to blow up this dam. They cannot blow it up physically, because they cannot blow it up. They have no access to it,” he said. “Himar missiles can destroy a concrete block,” he adds.

As for the Russian attack, the hypothesis seems improbable: “If the Russians blow up the dam when the bulk of their forces are on the right bank, how will they cross the river? It will be suicidal”, analyzes Gulliver Cragg. Moscow will “affect Crimea’s water supply and make it difficult to cool the reactors of the Zaporizhia power plant”.

According to a France 24 correspondent in Ukraine, “Both sides are in a contact game, where each accuses the most implausible things”.