Kakhovka Dam collapse: how devastating?

The destruction of the Kakhovka Dam on the Dnieper River has resulted in the flooding of vast areas of land in Ukraine and deprived thousands of people of their livelihoods. Many have sought refuge on rooftops and are waiting to be evacuated. Unease is growing about the colossal impact on the environment, drinking water supplies, agriculture and the cooling water for the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station. Commentators are also concerned.

La Repubblica (IT) /

This disaster affects us all

La Repubblica describes devastating pollution:

“The environmental catastrophe will not only affect Ukraine. ... A huge area south of the blown-up dam is still flooded by the Dnipro, soaking up petrol, diesel oil, pesticides and lubricants that the flood waters carried along when they swept through fuel depots and distributors, chemical and weapons stores. This mass is moving towards the sea. ... And no one can do anything about it. The Black Sea is mined. ... The large oil slicks that will form are normally containable and absorbable, but not there — because of the risk of constant explosions. There is a risk of pollution of the Turkish and European coasts. The consequences of the war will spread like bad luck.”

Brunella Giovara
Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

A new dimension

Radio Kommersant FM fears that the nuclear power plant at the Kakhovka Reservoir will also be affected:

“As the German Chancellor has said, ‘The destruction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Station adds a new dimension to the conflict’. ... It stands to reason that the next, even more dangerous level will be the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which has been somewhat in the shadows lately. But now it is back in the news — and unfortunately not in a positive light. There is no need to describe the scale of what might happen — it is already clear. The disaster that is now unfolding seems like just a light warm-up programme by comparison.”

Dmitrij Drise
Novinky.cz (CZ) /

The culprit is known

It will be difficult to clarify who was responsible for the dam breach, Novinky.cz notes:

“But that is not so important. If Russia had not invaded Ukraine last year, not only the dam but also thousands of destroyed buildings would still be standing, the Mriya, the largest cargo plane in the world [destroyed in the Battle of Antonov Airport] would still be in the air and we would not have several hundred thousand war refugees in the Czech Republic. UN Secretary-General António Guterres summed it up: ‘One thing is clear — this is another devastating consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine’. From this point of view, the culprit is known.”

Alex Švamberk
Večernji list (HR) /

Russia has shot itself in the foot

Russia committed a major strategic mistake by blowing up the dam, Večernji list writes:

“They didn’t factor in that when the Dnipro settles into its new riverbed it will probably become narrower and thus easier for Ukrainian troops to cross. Moreover, the flooding washed away the entire front line of Russian fortifications, trenches and mines. ... On top of that, with summer just round the corner dry Crimea has been left without the drinking water provided by the river, since the canal through which the water came has now also become unusable. This war has already caused damage of immense proportions, but the Ukrainians have proved that this will not dissuade them from liberating their territory.”

Davor Ivanković
Naftemporiki (GR) /

Signs of comprehensive threats

Naftemporiki warns of further escalation:

“The blowing up of the dam basically marks the end of the illusion that wars should be fought by honest means, and revives the threat of the kind of total war that humanity painfully experienced during WWII. The conflict in Ukraine has not yet reached this level, but the signs are worrying: the attacks on Russian territory have alarmed Moscow, but also the West, which fears that the military equipment it supplies to Kyiv could be used for this purpose. ... Putin’s answer is clear: an attack on Russia with Nato weapons means an attack by Nato.”

Athanasios Adamopoulos
The Times (GB) /

Another case for The Hague

For The Times Putin’s signature is clearly visible:

“Vladimir Putin’s regime has deliberately targeted civilian lives and infrastructure in its war of aggression against Kyiv since February last year. Though reliable information is as yet scarce, it would be in keeping with this strategy for Russia to blow up the dam, heedless of the danger to civilian lives in villages and towns that now adjoin the Dnipro river, in order to prevent a crossing by Ukrainian forces. The bombing and consequent flooding provide a sobering backdrop to a case that began yesterday at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the Hague, in which Ukraine accuses Russia of being a terrorist state.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Flooded earth strategy

If blowing up the dam was a Russian tactic, it is not a very good one, Le Figaro explains:

“The destruction will have negative repercussions for both camps: on the Ukrainian side it will pose a serious threat to the civilian population and delay the launch of the counteroffensive; on the Russian side it will jeopardise Crimea’s water supply and the strength of the defence lines . ... There have been numerous precursors for the scorched-earth strategy in this area, and the current flooded-earth strategy is yet another variant. It indicates that the warring parties will not shy away from any kind of escalation in the struggle to defeat the enemy. But the Russians should know by now that such a strategy always ends in the defeat of the aggressor.”

Philippe Gélie
NV (UA) /

Prioritise demining around Zaporizhzhia

While the situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station is not threatening right now, one question needs to be urgently clarified, expert Olga Kozharna points out in NV:

“The power units have been shut down since September 2022. Hence they require less water for cooling than when the plant is running at full capacity. So there are risks, but the situation is stable. In addition, mobile pumping units with hoses up to 2 km long were installed at the power plant after the accident in Fukushima. ... The problem, however, is that the Russian occupiers have mined the shore and the area around the plant. I hope they managed to record the locations of the mines on maps. Because to bring these mobile pumping units to the banks of the Dnipro the area must be cleared of mines.”

Olga Kosharna
Oberösterreichische Nachrichten (AT) /

Propaganda and playing the blame game

Both parties stand to gain from the breach, the Oberösterreichische Nachrichten concludes:

“For the time being, all we know is that the dam has been destroyed. But then the propaganda begins. And as always in this war, no one wants to take responsibility. So the only way to find the truth is to work with plausibilities. Russia, for example, would have the advantage that Ukraine is now focused on repairing the damage and has to postpone its major offensive. Ukraine, on the other hand, can rejoice that the drinking water supply of occupied Crimea is now at risk, which is a bitter blow for the Kremlin.”

Heidi Riepl
Echo (RU) /

Water as the best defence

In a Telegram post republished by Echo, political scientist Abbas Galliamov suspects this was the deliberate destruction of ineffectual defensive positions:

“If these fortifications were of roughly the same quality as those through which the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Freedom of Russia Legion passed like knives through butter in Belgorod, it was essential to flood them. To avoid disgrace. ... Once the water has receded Putin’s generals can safely withdraw, because they now have an alibi against the wrath of their superiors: of course we wouldn’t have left, but the damned Dnieper destroyed our elaborate fortifications. Otherwise never! ... And at least for the time being, the water is the best barrier against the advancing enemy.”

Abbas Galliamov
Onet.pl (PL) /

Precision strike gone wrong?

Onet is surprised about the information chaos on the Russian side:

“At first glance, the whole thing seemed like an attempt by the Russians to seize the operational initiative. During the night, Russian missiles attacked Kyiv and Kharkiv. In the morning, the FSB warned of alleged Ukrainian plans to use a dirty bomb. The blowing up of the dam could thus be part of a larger operation. However, the Russian account was chaotic from the outset, which suggests that the Russians could have been caught off guard by the events. ... The information chaos could indicate that the Russians only wanted to blow up part of the dam as part of a ‘precision strike’ to flood the islands at the mouth of the Dnipro River where Ukrainian troops are stationed — but in the end it turned out as it always does.”

Marcin Wyrwał