Western intelligence assessments indicate that the Russian military was behind the destruction of the Kakhovka dam in Kherson on Tuesday.
The Biden administration has indicated that it is working to declassify intelligence that proves that the Kremlin was behind the sabotage.
The destruction of the facility has caused an unprecedented humanitarian and ecological disaster in southern Ukraine.
According to Western intelligence assessments, In the early morning hours of Tuesday, the Russian forces detonated explosives inside the Kakhovka dam and adjacent hydroelectric power station. The initial explosion partially destroyed the structure. By noon, the onrushing water had swept away most of the facility, and water was flooding nearby areas.
“The dam’s structure is likely to deteriorate further over the next few days, causing additional flooding,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest estimate of the war.
Thus far, close to 5 billion gallons of water have flooded downstream, putting more than 40,000 people at risk. The Ukrainian emergency services and military have been evacuating people to safety. What is worse for the Ukrainians is that the water level within the Kakhovka reservoir was at a record high just before the destruction of the dam.
The Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric power station were built by the Soviets in the 1950s; since then, it has provided potable water and power to the region and tens of thousands of people.
The Russian forces most likely destroyed the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station and dam in an attempt to stall or stop the ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive. Millions of cubic meters of water have flooded significant portions of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts, which prevents large-scale mechanized maneuvers.
The Kremlin likely assesses that the Ukrainian counteroffensive will liberate the area around the Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric power station because its destruction will affect the water supply in the occupied Crimean Peninsula further in the south.
But besides providing power and irrigation to large chunks of southern Ukraine, the Kakhovka hydroelectric power facility and dam furnished water for the nearby Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is the largest of its kind in Europe and one of the largest in the world. Such facilities are often built close to water sources so that they can have a steady supply of water to cool off their nuclear reactors.
Although the destruction of the Kakhovka dam might impact operations at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, experts indicate that there will be no issue in the short term.
“Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which sits 120km away from the dam, is highly unlikely to face immediate additional safety issues as a result of the dropping water levels in the reservoir,” the British Military Intelligence stated.
However, the Russian forces could sabotage the nuclear power facility as well in an attempt to stall or stop the ongoing Ukrainian large-scale counteroffensive. Over the past 16 months of war, the Kremlin has shown itself to be ruthless and with little regard for the lives and livelihoods of innocent civilians.
A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. He is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Strategy, Cybersecurity, and Intelligence at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.