Military press conference: Russia has the most to gain from Ukraine dam burst


The destruction of the Kakhovka dam and power plant, which caused flooding across southern Ukraine, is likely to limit Kiev’s options in an early counterattack, military officials and analysts said.

Moscow and Kiev exchanged blame on Tuesday for the collapse of a dam in the Russian-occupied Kherson province straddling the Dnipro River.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was a “deliberate act of sabotage by the Ukrainian side aimed at depriving Crimea of ​​water” and aimed to divert attention from the “choppy Ukrainian aggression”. claimed to have done so.

But Ukraine’s state-owned hydropower company Ukurhydroenergo said an explosion in the engine room destroyed the dam, while President Volodymyr Zelensky blamed “Russian terrorists”.

“It’s physically impossible to blow it up from the outside by shelling or anything like that. It was mined. It was mined by the Russian occupiers and blown up by them,” he said. “Russia has detonated a bomb with massive environmental destruction. This is Europe’s biggest man-made environmental disaster in decades.”

Neither claim was immediately verifiable.

However, some military analysts and Ukrainian officials believe that the destruction of the dam will primarily benefit Russia by negating Kiev’s plan to attack southwards and increasing the likelihood of an eastward attack on which Russia can focus. The timing of the dam’s destruction is questionable, he said. The Russian military has made little headway this year since announcing an attack in January.

“The objective is clear: to create insurmountable obstacles in the path of the advancing Ukrainian forces,” said Mikhail Podlyak, the top adviser to President Zelensky.

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Videos shared on social media showed water engulfing a destroyed dam, flooding towns and villages along the banks of the Dnipro River. Ukrainian authorities rushed to evacuate tens of thousands of people from flood-affected government-controlled areas.

Ukraine is expected to launch an offensive in the south to break through and cut off the “land bridge” that connects Russian territory with the occupied Zaporizhia and Kherson provinces, as well as the Crimea peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. This connection is extremely important. For the logistics and supplies of the Russian army. If Kiev reaches the strategic city of Melitopol, or even reaches the Sea of ​​Azov, it will deal a heavy blow to Russia’s occupation of the south and to military morale.

Pavel Luzin, a visiting fellow at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, said the possible involvement of Russia demonstrates Russia’s concerns about an upcoming Ukrainian counterattack.

He said the construction of the dam — an earthfill dam made of compacted earth — could only be blown up from the inside and would have suffered little damage from artillery fire.

“They tried to deter the attack with further missile strikes throughout May.

However, he added that in the long run Russia’s position was likely to suffer worse than Ukraine’s. “The water will flow in a few days. It will flood the Russian positions on the left bank,” he said.

The dam breach suggests that the Ukrainian military has stepped up its offensive in recent days at several points along a 1,000-kilometre front in the south and east of the country, and may be beginning a long-awaited counteroffensive. happened inside.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry reported on Tuesday that its forces had captured more territory near Bakhmut, Donbass city. The city was completely occupied by Russian forces and Wagner mercenaries in May after 10 months of heavy fighting, and remains the “epicenter” of the fighting.

“Russia benefits from having a smaller front line because it’s easier to concentrate forces to prevent a breakthrough,” said Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Institute for Foreign Policy, a U.S. think tank. “Thus, if the Ukrainian army’s operations in Kherson are now less likely, they may be able to move more forces east.”

A Ukrainian military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said officials were assessing the damage caused by the floods and would adjust counterattack plans accordingly.

“If there were plans for an amphibious operation there, we certainly wouldn’t do it any time soon,” they said. “Immediately after [the flooding]Essentially the land will become a swamp. “

Military adviser and former Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk said the Kiev generals likely “have other plans”. He said the floods may be a setback, but they cannot stop Ukraine from fighting back.

“If you want to cross the river there, it’s impossible,” he added. “Essentially, this denies us any ability to cross rivers or move equipment in the area. is the reason.”

The Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security, a Ukrainian government agency, said Russian forces may have blown up the dam and flooded islands downstream, which it said had been recaptured by Ukrainian forces on Monday.

“Another possible reason is the desire to inflict maximum damage on Ukraine at a time when the occupiers have lost hope of maintaining control over southern Ukraine,” it added.

Western officials said the floods “will affect extensive civilian infrastructure that is difficult to restore during a war.” If you widely publicize that you are about to launch a counterattack, it shouldn’t be surprising if your adversaries take countermeasures. “

But the flood also affects the Russian army. “Although the Ukrainian river crossing threat has always been low, the dam failure flooded Russia’s first defensive line east of the Dnipro at Kherson,” said Michael Coffman, a military analyst with the Washington Center for Naval Analysis. said. -based think tank. “This disaster benefits no one, but it will have the greatest impact on the Russian-occupied territories.”

Russian military bloggers, who ardently support the war but criticize military leadership, mostly support official events.

“Our left bank is even more affected by the floods.

But some couldn’t help but rejoice at the difficulty the dam’s burst caused to the Ukrainian counterattack in the region.

“I’m not going to make any sort of assessment of who caused the explosion,” said Yegor Guzenko, a Russian militant and blogger. “But from a tactical point of view, [Ukraine] Forget the offensive at Kherson. “

Additional report in London by John Paul Rathbone

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