Analysts have evaluated satellite images of the Kakhovka dam and conclude that negligent behavior by the Russian armed forces led to the disaster.
Kherson – The Kakhovka dam in Kherson may have been destroyed not by an attack, but by the "criminal negligence of the Russian Armed Forces" - this is the conclusion of an independent investigative organization after evaluating satellite images. The dam failure was therefore not caused by explosions. Rather, it is the tragic consequence of failures that led to damage over months and ultimately to the catastrophe.
A satellite image shows the damaged Kakhovka Dam on June 5 shortly before the rupture. © dpa/Maxar Technologies
Explosions are not the cause of the Kakhovka dam failure
Until now, Ukraine and Russia had blamed each other for the destruction of the Kakhovka dam. The Ukrainian government was convinced that Russia had the dam blown up in order to hinder the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Ukraine war. Even memories of the Second World War were awakened. Experts had also speculated worldwide about the possible cause of the disaster. However, an attack on the Kakhovka Dam from outside, as if by a missile decision, had been assessed by experts, for example in an interview with the New York Times, as unlikely.
The independent investigative organization "Conflict Intelligence Team" (CIT) from Russia has now tried to bring clarity to the events by evaluating satellite images from Sentinel, Planet and Maxar. The organization uses publicly available data to investigate incidents related to the operations of the Russian army. Now she has compared satellite images of the Kakhovka Dam from last fall with those in the days before the destruction. Their conclusion: The cause of the dam rupture was not intentionally caused explosions, but damage that had developed over months during the Ukraine war.
Kakhovka dam failure: lock damaged for months
Explosions are therefore not the cause of the rupture of the Kakhovka dam. Rather, these were caused by mines that were swept away by the water masses, the analysts at CIT estimate. However, the mines were already attached to the dam months ago by the Russian army, according to CIT. "We know from the past that the Russians mined the dam. They let us know that, so to speak," military expert Markus Reisner told NDR.
According to CIT, the analysis of satellite images of the Kakhovka dam showed that explosions had already caused massive damage to the lock gates last November when Russian forces withdrew. The gantry cranes used to open the gates have not been moved since mid-November 2022. Until June 5, they would have been in the same place, as the satellite images showed, according to CIT analyses. The analysts conclude that "since November 15, the Russian Armed Forces have not regulated the water level in the reservoir in any way."
Negligent behavior led to Kakhovka dam burst
The damage to the lock gates would then also have led to the strong water level fluctuations of recent months and a record water level at the end of May in the reservoir, analysts at CIT concluded. And this has also had an impact on river levels in Ukraine. After heavy rainfall and snowmelt, flooding occurred in the country and the capital Kiev in April. In this regard, the head of the civil protection department of the Kiev administration, Roman Tkachuk, had already pointed out in April that the Kakhovka dam was not operational. It "cannot be operated in full technological mode," which makes it more difficult to maintain the water level in the Dnieper, Tkachuk had explained.
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According to analyses by the CIT, damage to the dam eventually led to the rupture. A satellite image from June 2 showed that the section of road above the open gates had collapsed. The damage then continued to spread in the following days and, as a result, "the dam collapsed on the night of 5 to 6 June," CIT said. "First, the water broke through the dam in the area of the open gates, and then, under the pressure of the water flow, part of the turbine hall collapsed." Contrary to speculation about a planned tactical destruction of the Kakhovka Dam to thwart a Ukrainian counteroffensive, according to the data analysts, negligent behavior by the Russian armed forces could have led to the catastrophe. (kasa)