Ukraine has called for the EU and G7 to implement a new round of sanctions against Russia as hundreds of thousands are hit by the destruction of the Kakhovka dam in occupied Kherson on June 6.
Kyiv blames Russia for destroying the hydroelectric plant (HPP), one of the most important energy facilities in Ukraine, saying that Russia has violated the Geneva Convention, which prohibits the targeting of dams and civilians. The Ukrainian Government calls for sanctions on Russia’s missile and nuclear industries.
"We consider the Russian Federation's detonation of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant as a terrorist act against Ukrainian critical infrastructure, intended to cause as many casualties and destruction as possible," Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry wrote, adding that Kyiv was requesting an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced that the consequence would only be clear in a week, “when the water goes away,” noting that the regions of Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson will suffer from a lack of drinking water, which could have an impact on over 200,000 citizens, according to the Live Ukraine Telegram channel.
Denouncing Moscow’s claims that Ukraine attacked the dam as “nonsense”, Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council chief Oleksii Danilov said that Russia's 205th Motorised Rifle Brigade blew up the dam. The brigade was stationed in Kakhovka and controlled the facility, Danilov told Ukrainian news outlet Liga.
The international community has backed Kyiv. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Russia destroyed the dam to stop the Ukrainian counter-offensive, DPA reported, claiming: “It fits with the way Russia is relentlessly waging war and fits in with the many crimes in Ukraine.”
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg labelled it "an outrageous act which demonstrates once again the brutality of Russia's war in Ukraine."
The economic and environmental destruction is massive and equates to a tactical nuclear weapon of 5-10 kilotonnes, according to OSINT platform InformNapalm. Towns and villages continue to flood as the Kakhovka reservoir rapidly loses water, with footage showing the town centre of Nova Kakhovka completely submerged.
Nova Kakhovka town centre
A major operation is underway to evacuate civilians in the affected territories as a staggering 18bn cubic metres of water gushes through southern Ukraine. Nearly 80 settlements and 16,000 homes lie in the critical zone, with flooding causing widespread destruction of houses, enterprises, farmland and ecosystems.
Already 150 tonnes of machine oil has leaked into the Dnipro, and the President's Office warns that this could rise to 300 tonnes. Sewage and other dangerous chemicals pollute the water, spreading across the region, whilst residents have been warned not to approach unearthed mines.
Agricultural workers could lose 20,000 hectares of arable land, pushing back Kherson’s vegetable production by half a decade, according to agricultural consulting firm Agroanalysis, the Kyiv Independent reported. At the same time, major industries, such as metallurgy plants that need continuous access to water, have been forced to cease operations.
Despite being a crucial component of Ukraine’s energy sector, the energy grid that derives its power from the dam is still stable, according to Ukraine's state energy operator Ukrenergo. The organisation noted that power has not been supplied to Ukrainian-controlled territories since early 2022, when Russia occupied the plant. Nevertheless, Ukrenergo is still monitoring the situation.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has quelled fears that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) is in direct danger. The agency announced that there is "no immediate nuclear safety risk”, and that the plant has enough water in its cooling pond to cool the fuel in the cores of the reactors for several months.
Fears that Russia would blow up the Kakhovka HPP emerged in October last year as Ukraine liberated swathes of territory in the Kherson region. Zelenskiy claimed that Russian troops had mined the plant’s dam and aggregates.
A week later, Russian media spread accusations that Ukraine was preparing a series of false flag operations, including destroying the Kakhovka and Dnipro dams and blowing up all six units of the ZNPP.
Despite the catastrophe, Zelenskiy said it will not affect Ukraine’s ability to liberate the occupied territories. Already Ukraine's state-owned energy company Ukrhydroenergo has announced plans to build a new power plant on the same site once the region is de-occupied.