Russia has mined a huge hydroelectric dam in southern Ukraine in a plot to unleash a devastating flood, officials in Kyiv have warned.
Moscow’s ‘nuclear blackmail’ had failed and the Kremlin was now resorting to new scare tactics, the head of the Ukrainian presidential office Andriy Yermak said last night.
‘Ukraine will not succumb to peace by coercion,’ he added. ‘They won’t break us. We will hit back even harder.’
His remarks came after President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned ‘Russian terrorists’ for laying explosives along the barrier at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant in the occupied Kherson region which Ukraine is pushing to retake.
Russian servicemen patrol at the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant, Kherson Oblast, amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine
Seized by Russia at the beginning of the war, the Kakhovka dam provides one of the last remaining routes over the Dnipro river in the region
President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned ‘Russian terrorists’ for laying explosives along the barrier at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant in the occupied Kherson region which Ukraine is pushing to retake
Seized by Russia at the beginning of the war, the Kakhovka dam provides one of the last remaining routes over the Dnipro river in the region.
Kherson has been the scene of intense fighting over the past week as the Ukrainian armed forces look to retake the regional capital of the same name, a key strategic port on the Black Sea.
Kyiv hopes to recapture the city before winter sets in.
In a desperate attempt to hang on to the territory, Russia yesterday ordered 2,000 conscripts to be dispatched to the area.
The Nova Kakhovka dam has been hit by Ukrainian missiles in the past because it is topped by a road used to supply Putin’s troops, but they have stopped short of destroying it
Russia is plotting to blow up the hydroelectric dam at Nova Kakhovka in order to flood Kherson and cover their retreat from the city, experts have warned
Sergei Surovikin, Putin’s new commander in Ukraine, has spoken about a Ukrainian attack on the dam – leading analysts to conclude he is laying the ground for a ‘false flag’ operation
Mr Zelensky said: ‘Everyone in the world must act powerfully and quickly to prevent a new Russian terrorist attack.
Destroying the dam would mean a large-scale disaster.
‘If the dam is destroyed, the North Crimean canal will simply disappear.’ The canal provides the illegally occupied Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea with 85 per cent of its water supplies.
Mykhailo Podolyak, another top aide to Mr Zelensky, said Moscow’s move was an attempt to halt the Ukrainian advance across the Kherson region.
‘Russia is preparing a man-made catastrophe by flooding [this] territory to stop Ukraine’s counter-offensive and block their own retreat,’ he wrote on Twitter.
Vladimir Putin’s puppet officials began ‘evacuating’ civilians out of the area this week and claim the number could reach 60,000 in a move that Kyiv has described as forced deportations.
A report by the Institute for the Study of War, a US think tank, said last night that Russia was ‘likely continuing to prepare for a false flag attack’ on the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant.
It added Moscow was creating the ‘information conditions’ for Russian forces to blow up the dam after they pull out of western Kherson.
The ISW suggested Russia would then accuse Ukraine of flooding the river and surrounding settlements.
The Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, a Kremlin mouthpiece, said it would be difficult to survive ‘such a grandiose water apocalypse’.
In a self-styled ‘exclusive investigation’ warning of major floods lasting three days, the newspaper said: ‘In the event of a dam explosion, a wave five meters [16ft] high will go down the Dnipro at a speed of 25km/h [15mph].
‘It would wash away all the coastal villages that it met on the way. In two hours, this tsunami would be in Kherson.’
The propaganda campaign underlines Russia’s desperation to hold on to the only regional capital it has successfully occupied in its eight-month invasion.
Retaking Kherson would be a significant morale boost for the Ukrainians, who have faced a barrage of deadly attacks by Iranian ‘suicide’ drones over the past two weeks.
The Ukrainian air force said yesterday it was taking down 85 per cent of the drones fired by Russia but their deployment is forcing Kyiv to use up vital air defence supplies.