Eventually it happened. The Kakhovka dam, which the Russians and Ukrainians have accused each other for months of wanting to tear down, blew up and the water contained in a 240-kilometer long basin that separates the forces of the two sides began to pour downstream flooding dozens of villages.
Ukraine, hit the Nova Kakhovka dam, in the Kherson region
"We are trying to get more information: we cannot say definitively what happened to the dam," says National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, stressing that the United States is in contact with Ukrainian authorities.
Kiev, immediately backed by NATO, the EU and Germany, accused Russia, which controls the power plant on the dam, of carrying out the attack with the aim of stopping the Ukrainian counteroffensive. Moscow denies and imputes the action to Kiev. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says it is "another devastating consequence of the Russian invasion" but admits he has "no independent information" to identify the culprit. Kiev immediately requested, and obtained, an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council.
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"At this stage, the Russian military is afraid of entering enemy territory by plane because now, given Kiev's equipment, they risk too much." (ANSA)
"This is just a single act of Russian terrorism, now Russia is guilty of brutal ecocide," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, adding that "the world must react" and "Russia must leave Ukrainian land." The same accusation of "terrorism" was leveled at Ukraine by the Russian Foreign Ministry, which called on the international community to "condemn the criminal act" of Kiev, saying that the sabotage is part of the Ukrainian authorities' plan for the long-announced counteroffensive. For his part, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also attributed Kiev's intention to deprive Russia-annexed Crimea, which depends largely on a canal from the dam for its water supply, of water.
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The IAEA, however, reassures, 'no immediate danger for the plant' (ANSA)
According to Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, the disaster was caused by an explosion in the engine room of the dam caused by soldiers of the 205th Motorized Brigade of the Russian army. Local pro-Russian authorities spoke of a rocket bombardment carried out by Ukrainians around 2 am. In the following hours the Ukrainians accused the Russians of carrying out new artillery bombardments on residents who were being evacuated, and the Russians claimed that the Ukrainians hit the dam again.
Kiev reported that 24 villages were flooded. Most of these are settlements along the Russian-controlled east bank of the Dnipro, located at a lower level than those on the Ukrainian-held west bank. Pro-Russian authorities speak of about 22,000 people threatened by flooding. But the disaster threatens to destroy much of the region's and Crimea's agricultural irrigation system. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), however, there should be no danger to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, further upstream, controlled by the Russians. Even if the basin were to dry up completely, in fact, the plant can draw "for a few months" the water for cooling the reactors from a separate reserve.
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The Russian-controlled Nova Khakovka Dam in Ukraine, which local authorities say was damaged today by a Ukrainian bombing, is a strategic water supply facility to Russia-annexed Crimea. (ANSA)
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg immediately spoke of "an outrageous act that once again demonstrates the brutality of Russia's war in Ukraine." And EU Council President Charles Michel denounced "a war crime" for which Russia will have to "pay the consequences". German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also explained the explosion as "aggression by Russia to stop Ukraine's offensive." More cautious London. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, like Guterres, said the disaster was a result of the Russian invasion, but added that it was "too early to make any kind of meaningful assessment of the details" of what happened.
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'I am shocked, Moscow and its allies must pay the consequences' (ANSA)
Conflicting versions are also given on the alleged Ukrainian counteroffensive, which according to the Russians has already begun since Sunday, while Kiev maintains an ambiguous position on the matter. Yesterday, in his usual evening speech, Zelensky said that "the news we have been waiting for" is finally coming, claiming in particular successes on the field around Bakhmut. For Moscow, however, the last three days have been a disaster for Ukrainians. The Russian Defense Ministry speaks of 3,700 Ukrainian soldiers eliminated as of Sunday along with 52 tanks, including 8 Leopards supplied by NATO countries, against 71 killed, 210 wounded and 15 tanks destroyed in the Russian ranks. On Russian territory, however, heavy bombing of the Shebekino district of the Belgorod region continues, while Russian anti-government militiamen based in Ukraine claim to have control of some villages in the same region.