Ukraine’s military command considered the option of artificially raising the water level in the Dnipro River as part of the operation to liberate Kherson, Maj. Gen. Andriy Kovalchuk, who led the counteroffensive, said in an interview with the Washington Post on Dec. 29.
The Ukrainians, he said, even conducted a test strike with a HIMARS launcher on one of the floodgates at the Nova Kakhovka dam, making three holes in the metal to see if the Dnipro’s water could be raised enough to stymie Russian crossings, but not flood nearby villages.
The strike on the dam was successful, he said, but its destruction remained a last resort, which was ultimately avoided.
According to Kovalchuk, his task was not only to liberate the territory.
“My task from the start was to occlude and destroy the [enemy] force,” he said.
“That is, to not let them leave or exist.”
Kherson had been occupied since the first days of Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed on Nov. 11 that the Ukrainian Armed Forces were liberating the city.
On that very day, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported on the complete withdrawal of its invasion forces from Kherson.
The Russian military was likely forced to take this step in order to preserve the remnants of its manpower group in southern Ukraine, in the face of Ukraine’s successful counter-offensive.