Russia is set to blow up a dam about 35 miles from Kherson which would lead to a large-scale disaster, alleged the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
He said the Kakhovka dam on the Dnieper River had been mined by Russian forces. But Moscow has already accused Ukraine of firing missiles at the Soviet-built Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant which supplies electricity to hundreds of thousands of people.
Vladimir Leontyev, a Kremlin-installed regional official, said on Thursday that Ukrainian forces had launched five missile strikes against the Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric power station. He believes if this is destroyed, a crucial canal providing water to annexed Crimea would be severed.
But Zelenskyy alleged that Russia plans to blow up the dam, in what he deems as a terrorist act to unleash 18 million cubic meters and flood Kherson, and dozens of areas that are home to hundreds of thousands of people.
The Kakhovka Dam
The Kakhovka dam is about 30 metres tall and 3.2 km long. It was built during the Soviet era in 1956 on the Dnipro River as part of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant. The dam accommodates an 18 km reservoir which also supplies water to the Crimean peninsula. Authorities say the reservoir hold water equal to the Great Salt Lake in the American state of Utah. It is the sixth and the last dam in the Dnipro cascade.
Russian forces captured the power plant on February 24, 2022.
Hit the Dam to Cover Retreat
The Institute for the Study of War said Russia wants to withdraw from Kherson because it has become too difficult to resupply its soldiers. "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."
The Institute highlighted that comments from Russia's top commander in Ukraine, General Sergei Surovikin, suggested a "false flag" attack was being planned. It says such an attack would further the false Russian information operation portraying Ukraine as a terrorist state that deliberately targets civilians.
In late February, Russia had used false flag attacks to justify its invasion of Ukraine. Moreover, Surovikin said difficult decisions would have to be made around Kherson as Ukrainian forces pushed their advance.
A Ukrainian soldier said captured soldiers had referred to destroying the dam. "They have spoken of this. I won't be surprised if they do...all they do is genocide."
The Institute says that Kremlin sources are likely setting information conditions for Russian forces to blow the dam after they withdraw from western Kherson Oblast and accuse Ukrainian forces of flooding the Dnipro River and surrounding settlements, partially in an attempt to cover their retreat further into eastern Kherson Oblast. "Continued Russian preparation for a false-flag attack on the Kakhovka HPP is also likely meant to distract from reports of Russian losses in Kherson Oblast."