Threat of Russian attack on Kakhovka HPP: Scenarios and consequences of dam’s destruction
Kakhovka HPP was occupied in the first days of the Russian invasion (Photo:uhe.gov.ua)
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned on Oct. 20 that Russia was preparing to stage a new large-scale terrorist attack – to blow up the dam of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant in Kherson Oblast, from where the Ukrainian army’s offensive is gradually driving out the Russian invasion troops.
The New Voice of Ukraine gathered everything there is to know about the probability and possible repercussions of such a catastrophe, about the situation at the Kakhovka HPP since the beginning of the occupation, and also recalls the blowing up the DniproHES dam by the Soviet Red Army in 1941.
What is known about the risks of a catastrophe due to the destruction of the dam at the Kakhovka HPP
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy outlined this danger most explicitly on Oct. 20 in a speech to the European Council and in a traditional evening address to Ukrainians.
"According to our information, the units and the dam of the Kakhovka HPP have been mined by Russian terrorists," Zelenskyy said, stressing that "the destruction of the dam would mean a large-scale catastrophe."
He said that this hydroelectric power plant is one of the largest energy facilities in Ukraine, and the dam of the hydroelectric power 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," the president said.
He also listed other consequences of blowing up the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant and its dam:
- hundreds of thousands of residents of southern Ukraine will be in the danger zone and may suffer from the flood produced;
- water supplies to a large part of southern Ukraine and Crimea may be destroyed. "The North Crimean Canal will simply disappear in the event of the destruction of the Kakhovka HPP dam (...) This is Russia's true attitude towards our Ukrainian Crimea," Zelenskyy said;
- a Russian terrorist attack could leave the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant without water for cooling, because "water for ZNPP is taken from the Kakhovka reservoir";
- the overall destructive environmental, humanitarian, and man-made consequences of such a terrorist attack will reach the scale of a "historical catastrophe".
Zelenskyy's words were also confirmed by National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov. He said that an explosion at the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant would lead to a catastrophe with a huge number of casualties, but it would also harm the Russians themselves – in particular in Crimea.
"If they resort to such things, there can be no water supply there (in Crimea) for the next few years," Danilov said.
"Another thing is that they can destroy the turbines that are there that produce electricity for our country. They can do this, and we have information about these things.”
According to Ukraine, preparations for a terrorist attack are evidenced not only by the mining of the dam.
"Ukrainian workers were thrown out of the Kakhovka station – only Russian citizens work there. They fully control the station," the Ukrainian president said, adding that this was another sign that the Russians are planning an insidious operation.
Zelenskyy also warned that Russia could conduct such an operation "under a false flag" – that is, after the dam is blown up by the Russian military, Russia will accuse the Armed Forces of Ukraine of this terrorist attack.
"But we know what the truth is," the President of Ukraine addressed the European Council.
“We know that this territory is controlled by the occupiers and what they were already capable of. They will stop at nothing.”
That is why Zelenskyy called for a number of steps that would prevent a catastrophe:
- send an international observation mission to the Kakhovka HPP;
- return Ukrainian personnel to the hydroelectric power plant;
- ensure immediate and professional demining of the units and the dam.
At the same time, Zelenskyy said he was convinced that if Russia is preparing a terrorist attack at the Kakhovka HPP and is seriously considering such a scenario, "this means that the terrorists are very clearly aware that they cannot hold not only Kherson, but also the entire south of Ukraine, including Crimea."
An additional sign of Russia's preparation for a possible terrorist attack on the Kakhovka HPP is activity on the information front of Russian propaganda.
On Oct. 18, a staged "interview" with General Sergei Surovikin, who has recently been appointed the commander of the Russian troops in the war against Ukraine, was broadcast in Russia. In it, Surovikin falsely accused Ukraine of using allegedly "prohibited methods of warfare in Kherson Oblast", as well as of preparing "a massive missile strike on the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant dam and a massive missile and artillery strike on the city without discrimination of targets."
His rhetoric was also seconded by collaborating Kherson “leadership”, in particular, collaborator Volodymyr Saldo said there was "direct danger of flooding of the territories in connection with the planned destruction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant dam," which justified the need for the forced evacuation of residents of the west bank of Kherson Oblast to Russia, which is currently underway.
On Oct. 19, Kherson regional councilor Sergey Khlan said that such statements by Saldo and Surovikin about the alleged threat of flooding of settlements in the region due to the actions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were outright lies. He also suggested that such actions can be expected from the Russian army itself, including blowing up the dam by the Russian military.
"Surovikin said that the attack on the dam is being prepared by the Armed Forces,” said Khlan.
“This is not true and we all know it. The Ukrainian Armed Forces will not risk the lives of our people. Therefore, such provocations should be expected from those who announced them, as it has already happened dozens of times. However, the explosion will deprive the North Crimean Canal of water. Therefore, it all looks more like the rascists (Russian fascists) have come up with a reason why they are retreating to the other side. Not because of defeat, but for ‘safety reasons.’”
Advisor to the head of the President’s Office Mykhailo Podolyak even made public the "real Surovikin's plan" for the Kakhovka HPP point by point. In his opinion, this plan, which can turn into a man-made disaster, includes the following steps:
- mining of the dam and transformers;
- forced eviction of Ukrainians, resettlement of disloyal population to Russia;
- flooding the territory to stop Ukraine's counteroffensive and block its own retreat.
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