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Dam failure at Cherson: what is known so far


After the rupture of the Kakhovka dam near Cherson, numerous flooded houses are reported. The warring parties hold each other responsible. What is known so far – and what consequences the dam break could have.

What happened?

According to both warring parties, the Kakhovka Dam on the Dnipro River near Cherson – in the Russian-occupied southern part of Ukraine, near the front – was badly damaged. The dam collapsed, destroying the adjacent hydroelectric power station. Kiev and Moscow blame each other for this.

Russian mayor Vladimir Leontyev said on Russian state television that it was “obvious” that the power plant could no longer be repaired. The Ukrainian operator of the plant spoke of complete destruction.

What are the consequences of the dam collapse?

Around 600 houses have already been flooded. According to the rescue services of the Russian news agency Tass. According to the information, the city of Nowa Kakhovka is also under water – with reference to the mayor installed by Russia. The water has already risen by twelve meters, he said on Russian state television. The city is right on the destroyed dam. The Russian occupiers declared a state of emergency for Nowa Kakhovka.

More severe flooding is feared. According to Ukrainian sources, around 16,000 people live in the “critical zone” around the plant near the town of Nowa Kakhovka.

EU Council President Charles Michel spoke of a catastrophe. “My thoughts are with all the families affected by the disaster in Ukraine,” he tweeted, announcing that he would support the affected areas. He was “shocked” and said the “destruction of civilian infrastructure” was “clearly a war crime.” “Russia and its deputies will be held accountable.”

Are other regions affected?

Mayor Leontiev, appointed by Russia, admitted that there could also be problems with the water supply on the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014 and lies south of Kherson. This is supplied with water from the Kachowka reservoir.

Is the Zaporizhia NPP in danger?

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), there was initially no immediate danger for the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, which is also located north-east on the Dnipro River. “IAEA experts at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant are closely monitoring the situation,” the IAEA Twitter account said. “No immediate danger at the power plant.”

The state operator Energoatom also described the situation as not critical. A drop in the water level in the reservoir, which supplies the plant with cooling water, will not affect the water level in the power plant’s cooling ponds, in which the spent fuel elements are stored, says Energoatom boss Petro Kotin.

A spokesman for the Russian nuclear company Rosenergoatom told the Interfax news agency that the power plant – which, like the Kakhovka Dam, is located on the Dnipro River – was not affected. The facility is occupied by Russian troops as a result of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.

What do Kiev and Moscow say about the cause?

It is believed that the dam was blown up. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke of “terror” and convened the National Security Council. The Ukrainian military began evacuations on the right bank of the Dnipro River, where the Ukrainian-liberated regional capital, Kherson, is located.

The head of administration of the southern Ukrainian Oblast of Kherson, installed by Russia, said that he saw no need for a major evacuation. In a video distributed on Telegram, Governor Vladimir Saldo blames the Ukrainian government for the destruction of the dam. This wanted to distract from the failure of their counter-offensive in the east.

There has also been speculation that the dam may have ruptured due to poor maintenance. The information provided by both sides could not initially be verified independently.

conflicting parties as a source

In the current situation, information on the course of the war, shelling and casualties provided by official bodies of the Russian and Ukrainian conflict parties cannot be directly checked by an independent body.

Does the location have strategic importance?

In the war between Russia and Ukraine, the Kakhovka dam was of strategic importance from the very beginning. In the course of its attack, Russia had also occupied the Cherson region. Last fall, the Ukrainian army then managed to liberate part of the region – including the regional capital of the same name. However, towns south of the Dnipro remained under Russian control, including the dam town of Nowa Kakhovka.

The Ukrainian side repeatedly warned of a possible act of sabotage by the Russians in Nowa Kakhovka. There was concern when the occupiers announced the evacuation of the city in November. The dam was built in 1956 when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union.

The Kachowka Dam

The dam, built in 1956, is located directly at Nowa Kachowka, the town of Kachowka is located a little further north-east from the dam. The structure was 30 meters high and more than three kilometers long. It dams the Dnipro just before it flows into the Black Sea to form the huge Kakhovka reservoir, which itself looks like a sea because of its size. It is about 85 kilometers downstream from the dam to Cherson, and about 150 kilometers upstream to the site of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in the town of Enerhodar. The lake is located in the Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson districts.

Source: Reuters