Among war crimes, this must qualify as the worst and the most wicked. As the Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine was breached and burst between June 1st and 2nd, Ukrainians living downstream deserted their homes in hordes. For southern Ukraine, it is a huge ecological disaster. The dam, which has split into two, was a major hydroelectric dam on the Dniepro River. Kyiv is now accusing Russia for the watery war crime of breaching and collapsing the dam in impotent desperation to stop Ukraine’s counter-offensive. https://poliphoon.com/the-final- shot-at-freedom/
Proves to be Terribly Catastrophic
A blunt Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine, spared no words to describe the outrageous dam burst as an “environmental bomb of mass destruction.” As he is leading a determined war against Russian expansionism, Mr Zelensky did not hesitate to name Russia as the perpetrator of the dam-breach crime. The truth seems to lie somewhere among Mr Zelensky’s alarming and acerbic words as Russian forces were in control of most strategic sectors in Kherson since the onset of the war in Ukraine in 2014. Those strategic sectors include the Kakhovka dam, Kherson’s villages and the nearby towns.
What makes the Kakhovka dam’s breach a serious offensive is that it Europe’s largest man-made environmental disaster. Inevitably, it has proved to be terribly catastrophic. As the dam burst and broke, it went on to flood the towns along its path, making houses float away on surging waters, with Ukrainians and their pets slushing about and gasping for breath of safety and survival. On a last count, as many as 42,000 Khersonians are at serious risk from flooding. Ukraine has not seen a calamity like this never before. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/liveblog/2023/6/7/russia- ukraine-live-tens-of-thousands-at-risk-after-dam- collapse#:~:text=About%2042%2C000%20people%20are%20a t,annexed%20parts%20of%20Kherson%20region.
Video Courtesy: YouTube/Sky News
Has Unleashed Serious Consequences
Truly, Kherson is among the worst deluge-hit cities in Ukraine. To this day, the ferocious waters of the Dnieper river continue to race downstream with inexplicable rage. As if this watery grave is not enough, the right bank of the Dniepro river is in flames, while the left bank has been breached by billowing waters from the breached dam. Unmoved, Russians continue to shell the river’s right bank relentlessly with artillery. In southern Ukraine in general, and Nova Kakhovka in particular, most animals and poultry birds have drowned. Worse, the famed zoo has ceased to exist.
European military experts say this man-made disaster is sure to visit generations of Ukrainians with serious consequences. Countless lives have been lost and hundreds of homes abandoned. Ecologically too, the heartless breach of the dam is catastrophic. Most mines, bridges, villages and their farmlands have been destroyed. Militarily speaking, this destruction has wiped out Ukraine’s routes for effective counter-offensive operations. Worse, Ukraine’s ability to produce and distribute hydroelectric power lies among question marks as it stands crippled now. https://edition.cnn.com/2023/06/06/europe/ukraine-nova- kakhovka-dam-breach-intl-hnk/index.html
It is a New Low for the war in Ukraine
The over-65-years-old Kakhovka hydroelectric station is Ukraine’s largest power facility, catering to more than 3m Ukrainians. The Kakhovka reservoir is a critical source of water supply for Crimea and its neighbourhood. The dam burst and the subsequent loss of the upstream reservoir will now retard water supplies to regions beyond Kherson, including Zaporizhzhia and Crimea. As Ukraine’s hydroelectric plant has been blown up, water supply for Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility upstream will be constrained and turn into an issue of major concern.
Deeply disturbed, Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak rushed in to pour out his ire. He tweeted: “The idea behind the wanton destruction was to erect insurmountable obstacles on the way of the advancing Ukrainian army…… and slow down the fair final of the war.” Viewed through his stinging words, the breach and the blast of the Ukrainian dam marks a new low for the war in Ukraine. Everything is fair in war, but Russia is adding altogether a new meaning to the ongoing conflict in unsuspecting Ukraine. words. https://www.businessinsider.in/international/news/ukraine- accuses-russia-of-blowing-up-dam-to-put-a-massive-natural- obstacle-in-the-way-of-its- counteroffensive/amp_articleshow/100797613.cms
The Russia-Friendly Media’s Propaganda
Mr Podolyak apart, Antonio Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, too wasted no time to say the breach and burst of the dam was “another devastating consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.” Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, and Janez Lenarčič, the European commissioner for crisis management, too warned the breach and the burst of the dam was a war crime. “It may constitute a violation of international law, notably international humanitarian law,” they claimed.
Joining them, Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, tweeted that the dam’s destruction “clearly qualifies” as a war crime. Fearing more such global reprisals and condemnations, Russia tried hard to project a straight face and continue to deny anything had happened to the dam. Blatantly, a rank-insensitive Russia shifted the blame for the dam’s burst and breach to Ukrainian shelling. With arrogant audacity, Russia stooped quite low to link the dam’s breach to a special Ukrainian military operation. The Russia-friendly media mouthpieces too aired similar views. They parroted that the dam’s breach and the subsequent burst was Ukraine’s way of eliminating all Russian positions along the Dniepro river’s eastern bank. https://euneighbourseast.eu/news/latest- news/charles-michel-on-nova-kakhovka-dam-in-ukraine- destruction-of-civilian-infrastructure-clearly-qualifies-as-a-war- crime/
The Danger Bigger than Flooding
Proving to be an equal match, the Kremlin-loyal puppet officials displyed shameless chutzpah to report that the Kakhovka dam was hit by Ukrainian Olkha multiple-launch rockets. Alongside, Russia-pampering news agencies claimed the crash was due to structural weaknesses and unchecked water pressure. Despite Zelensky asserting that the dam’s breach and burst proved the need to expel the greedy Russians “from every corner of the Ukrainian land” immediately, thick-skinned Russia showed no reaction or remorse. https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/world/europe/2023-06-06- russian-terrorists-must-be expelled-from-ukraine-zelensky-says- after-dam- blast/#:~:text=The%20destruction%20of%20the%20Kakhovka,for%20terror%2C%E2%80%9D%20Zelensky%20wrote.
Such behaviour and attitude were expected from Russia, which believes in deploying missiles, and water now, against Ukraine. The breach and the burst of the Kakhovka dam are loud indications that Russia will not shy away from employing more dangerous and devastating options against Ukraine tomorrow. If Russia could blast as many as 11 of the 28 spans in the dam today, what could stop it from blasting the rest of the spans tomorrow? This fearsome possibility remains a big potential danger, bigger than the current flooding and the mass civilian evacuation that followed.
Serious Long-Term Effects
However, as of today, the flooding is a major problem. The regions along the Dniepro downstream of Nova Kakhovka, besides the Russian-controlled left bank in southern Kherson, struggle as seriously-waterlogged sectors. The whole of Kherson is under water. Distressingly, the Kherson harbour, its docklands and its southern island too are submerged, displacing all Ukrainians living there. Just like any other enemy weapon, the water attack by breaching and bursting a dam too will have serious long-term effects on Ukraine, its economy and its ability to continue fighting its war. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-65825178
For Ukraine, the biggest worry now is the flood-inflicted damage to its Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The nuclear facility will lose its supply of water for cooling. This is sure to hit Crimea too. Already, four of the six reactors in the Zaporizhzhia facility are shut. As the Kakhovka dam is close to the front line of the war in southern Kherson, Mr Zelensky should have seen the Kakhovka breach and burst coming. Why he didn’t remains a puzzle for European militarists.
Mr Zelensky had warned in November that Russia was planning something big, but did not know, or say, exactly what it was. The Nova Kakhovka dam has been breached and destroyed now. Yet, it would be foolhardy to expect remorseless Russia to sit back, smug and satisfied. Sure, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has something bigger brewing on his devilish mental laboratory. The catastrophic Kakhovka dam collapse only proves this doomsday theory.