Russia may about to cause a “historical disaster” in a horrific “terrorist attack” by blowing up a dam and flooding a huge proportion of Ukraine in order to frame Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned. Multiple sources have claimed Moscow has placed explosives on the dam of the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant and kicked out its staff with the intention of blowing it up and sending 18 million cubic metres of water hurtling for 80 Ukrainian settlements, including Kherson, according to analysis by Ukrainian journalist Myroslava Petsa.
Mr Zelensky added that the Kremlin will attempt to place the blame on Ukraine as the flood covers the Russian retreat from the area, a belief shared by US-based think-tank the Institute for the Study of War.
If they do this it will represent a devastating humanitarian and environmental disaster that will primarily effect an area that Russia last month claimed to have annexed and brought into its own territory.
Mr Zelensky explained: “Russia is deliberately creating the basis for a large-scale disaster in the south of Ukraine. We have information that Russian terrorists mined the dam and units of the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant. This is one of the large power facilities.
“The dam of this hydropower plant holds about 18 million cubic meters of water. If Russian terrorists blow up this dam, more than 80 settlements, including Kherson, will be in the zone of rapid flooding. Hundreds of thousands of people could be affected.”
He added that it would represent a “historical disaster” and that the Kremlin would try to blame the “terrorist attack” on Ukraine. Environmental activists have described the result of the attack to be an “atomic bomb of water” heading towards thousands of homes.
The hydroelectric plant currently provides electricity for thousands of people, and using this as a weapon would reflect the Kremlin’s most recent strategy of targeting Ukrainian infrastructure. Kherson is the only significant city Russia has managed to capture since its invasion of Ukraine, and the region is one of the four that Putin claimed to have annexed on September 30.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) claimed Russia wants to withdraw from Kherson because it had become too difficult to resupply its soldiers, and this is part of the motivation for sabotaging the dam. Ukrainian artillery has damaged the only bridge crossing the Dnipro river near the city, while a Ukrainian special forces bomb has also disabled the Kerch bridge connecting Crimea with the Russian mainland, Russia’s most important supply route for the southern front.
British intelligence added: “Russian authorities are seriously considering a major withdrawal of their forces from the area west of the Dnipro river”.
The ISW said: “The Russian military may believe that breaching the dam could cover their retreat from the right bank of the Dnipro River and prevent or delay Ukrainian advances”.
Pro-Russian officials in the occupied city of Kherson have ordered civilians to evacuate, claiming this is because of the impending battle for the city.
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It added: “Such an attack would also further the false Russian information operation portraying Ukraine as a terrorist state that deliberately targets civilians.”
Conversely, Russia’s recent airstrikes have explicitly targeted civilian areas, cutting off electricity for hundreds of towns and hitting local infrastructure.
Despite the apparent absurdity of severely damaging a part of Ukraine Russia has claimed as its own, if they blame the destruction on Ukraine it would justify an escalation of the conflict – again attempting to portray Russia as innocently defending itself. Alexander Kots, a well-followed Russian military blogger, told one of Russia’s most high-profile news programmes on Wednesday that Ukraine’s army planned to destroy Kherson with a weapon of mass destruction.
He said: “I believe that this could mean a chemical weapons attack or the flooding of the area”.
Terrifying, journalist Ms Petsa added in her analysis that the water contained by the dam is required to cool the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant – the largest of its kind in Europe. Without water to cool the plant it could go into nuclear meltdown – leading to widespread destruction of the kind previously seen in the Chernobyl disaster of 1986.