Russia Denies It Blew Up Dam. New Evidence Suggests Otherwise

Drone pics, other info shows Russia had 'means, motive, and opportunity' to destroy Ukrainian dam
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 19, 2023 7:56 AM CDT
Evidence Points More to Russia on Ukrainian Dam Collapse
This image shows the Kakhovka dam and station in Ukraine after its collapse on June 6.   (Satellite image, copyright 2023 Maxar Technologies via AP, File)

Russia had the means, motive, and opportunity to bring down a Ukrainian dam that collapsed earlier this month while under Russian control, per exclusive drone photos and information obtained by the AP. Images taken from above the Kakhovka dam and shared with the AP appear to show an explosives-laden car atop the structure, and two officials said Russian troops were stationed in a crucial area inside the dam where the Ukrainians say the explosion that destroyed it was centered. The Russian Defense Ministry didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. The dam's destruction led to deadly flooding, endangered crops in the world's breadbasket, threatened drinking water supplies for thousands, and unleashed an environmental catastrophe. Ukrainian commanders say it also scuppered some of their plans to take Russian positions in a counteroffensive now in its early stages.

Each side has accused the other of destroying the dam, but the various Russian allegations—that it was hit by a missile or taken down by explosives—fail to account for a blast so strong that it registered on seismic monitors in the region. Two Ukrainian commanders who'd been in the area but at different locations told the AP that the rising waters quickly swamped their positions and Russian ones and destroyed equipment, forcing them to start all over again with their planning and leaving them facing a much larger distance to cover, all in mud. Kakhovka is one of a series of Soviet-era dams along the Dnieper River that were built to withstand enormous force, amounting to thousands of pounds of explosives. They were constructed in the wake of the infamous World War II "Dambusters" raids that destroyed German dams.

Taking out the Moehne dam in 1943, for instance, required five 4.5-ton, specially made "bouncing bombs," per Imperial War Museums archives. Ukraine isn't believed to possess any single missile with that kind of power. Nor does it seem credible that Ukrainian commandos could have sneaked in thousands of pounds of explosives to blow up the dam, which was completely controlled inside and out by Russian soldiers for months. In the days leading up to the single explosion, Ukrainian military drone videos showed dozens of Russian soldiers encamped on a bank of the Dnieper, relaxed as they walked back and forth to the dam with no cover—suggesting their confidence in their control of the area and especially the dam, which was strategically crucial.

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Photos taken from Ukrainian drone footage, obtained by the AP and dated May 28, showed a car parked on the dam, its roof neatly cut open to reveal enormous barrels, one with what appears to be a land mine attached to the lid and a cable running toward the Russian-held side of the river. Immediately after the dam's collapse, some experts noted that the structure was in disrepair, which could have led to the breach. But the area most obviously in disrepair was still intact days after most of the rest of the dam collapsed. The Institute for the Study of War, an American think tank that has monitored Russian actions in Ukraine since the war began, says that "the balance of evidence, reasoning, and rhetoric suggests that the Russians deliberately damaged the dam."

(More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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