Washington Examiner

Russia and Ukraine blame each other for dam explosion, White House assessing.

Explosion at Major Dam in Southern Ukraine Sparks Accusations and Evacuations

The United States has not determined who is responsible for the explosion that broke a major dam in southern Ukraine on Tuesday, leading to the evacuation of thousands of people amid concerns of significant flooding.

Ukrainian and Russian leaders have accused one another of being responsible for the attack that occurred at the Nova Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro River, which separates both countries’ troops. Videos of the dam following the explosion showed a major gap in the dam and overwhelming amounts of water cascading through the break.

Accusations and Concerns

“We’ve seen the reports that Russia was responsible for the explosion at the dam, which I would remind, Russian forces took over illegally last year and had been occupying since then,” national security council coordinator John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “We’re doing the best we can to assess those reports and we are working with Ukrainians to gather more information, but we cannot say conclusively what happened at this point.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the attack “the largest man-made environmental disaster in Europe in decades,” whereas Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused Kyiv of an act of “deliberate sabotage,” and said Ukraine sought to destroy the dam in part to cut off the water supply from the river to Crimea, the southern peninsula of Ukraine that Russia annexed nearly a decade ago.

Potential Devastation

The dam is located in the southern part of the country. The Zaporizhzhia power plant, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, is upstream from the dam and not at immediate risk of damage, while the city of Kherson, which had 300,000 residents before the war, is downstream and at risk of significant flooding.

Vladimir Leontyev, the Russian-appointed mayor of the city of Nova Kakhovka, said on Russian state television, “The city is flooded.”

The collapse of the dam, which powers Ukraine’s Kakhovka hydro-electric power plant, could “very well have a devastating impact on Ukraine’s energy security, and it will certainly have an impact on Ukraine’s canal system,” Kirby said, noting that they have been in touch with Ukrainian leaders regarding humanitarian assistance.

Ukraine’s Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said he thinks there could be up to 80 settlements affected in both Ukrainian-held and Russian-occupied territory, according to CNN.

Counteroffensive and Warning

The move comes as Ukraine is beginning its counteroffensive to regain territory in the south and east under Russian occupation. Some Ukrainian officials have suggested the attack on the dam was a move made “in panic” about the offensive.

Back in October, Zelensky warned that Russia was preparing a “false flag” operation, adding at the time, “We have information that Russian terrorists mined the dam and aggregates of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant.”

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