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Russia’s seizure of the Kakhovka Dam, a crucial component of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant, took place on the first day of its invasion in February 2022. This action was motivated by the dam’s significant role in providing fresh water to Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that was invaded and unlawfully annexed by Russia in 2014.

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The responsibility for the explosion, which occurred amidst Kyiv’s escalated offensive operations on the eastern and southern fronts, remains unclear. Both Ukraine and Russia swiftly exchanged accusations regarding the blast.

Courtesy : Euronews

Conflicting reports emerged regarding the extent of the damage. Ukraine’s state-owned hydropower company stated via Telegram that the hydroelectric plant had been “completely destroyed” due to an explosion in the engine room. Aerial footage displayed substantial structural damage to the dam, with noticeable sections missing, measuring hundreds of feet. Officials reported a rapid decrease in reservoir levels as water poured out.

Situated at the end of the Dnieper River in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region, the dam poses a threat to residents from northern Kherson down to the Black Sea due to the swiftly rising water levels. Additionally, its reservoir supplies water to occupied Crimea and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Russian-controlled Enerhodar through canals. Ukrainian nuclear authorities have stated that the situation at the Zaporizhzhia plant has not been affected by the blast thus far.

Ukrainian officials pointed the finger at Russia, labeling the situation as an ecological disaster. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted, “Russia destroyed the Kakhovka dam, inflicting probably Europe’s largest technological disaster in decades and putting thousands of civilians at risk. This is a heinous war crime.”

In response to the crisis, Ukrainian authorities in Kherson urged residents to evacuate, while the occupying Russian authorities downplayed the potential consequences. Vladimir Leontyev, the mayor of the Russian-occupied city of Nova Kakhovka in Ukraine’s Kherson region, stated that water levels had risen by 16 feet, resulting in the flooding of several downstream settlements. While those in immediate proximity to the water were being relocated to dry areas, he indicated that large-scale evacuations were not anticipated.

Leontyev stated, “The situation is under control. The Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant was constructed in such a way as to withstand a nuclear strike.” He mentioned that the upper part of the hydroelectric plant had been destroyed, but the dam was only partially damaged.

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Conversely, Ukrainian authorities on the west bank urged residents to evacuate promptly. Oleksandr Prokudin, the Ukrainian head of the Kherson region, reported on national television that approximately 16,000 people were within the “critical” danger zone on the right bank of the river. He added, “In five hours, the water will reach a critical level. The evacuation of residents to safer areas has begun.”

Despite the escalating floodwaters, Russian forces continued their bombing campaign in Kherson city, which remains under Ukrainian control, as well as the surrounding areas. According to Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, two policemen from Kherson were injured by shrapnel during the evacuation efforts in the city.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal warned that up to 80 settlements downstream from the dam, spanning both Russian-occupied and Ukrainian-held territories, were at risk of flooding. Evacuations are underway in Kherson city’s Ostriv district, and evacuation trains have been arranged from Kherson to the city of Mykolaiv. Shmyhal acknowledged the challenges of monitoring the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant due to limited visibility caused by Russia’s occupation.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko informed via Telegram that 742 people had been evacuated thus far from Ukrainian-held areas. “Water is coming,” Klymenko emphasized, further noting the complications arising from washed-out roads, hindering access to certain settlements. Evacuation teams are exploring alternative routes.

Responding to the crisis, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for an emergency security council meeting, highlighting the destruction of the hydroelectric plant as another compelling reason to strive for Ukraine’s victory in restoring security. Zelensky expressed his message on Telegram, stating, “The destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam only serves to confirm, to the whole world, that they must be expelled from every corner of Ukrainian land.”

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