The images are incredible: masses of water shoot out of a hole in the middle of a stone formation. The wave that pours into the surrounding areas is tremendous. Not much remains of the Kakhovka Dam near the Ukrainian city of Kherson.
On Tuesday it was announced that the dam and the associated hydroelectric power station had been blown up. Russia and Ukraine blame each other for what happened.
The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj spoke of “Russian terrorists” who had blown up the dam. Moscow, on the other hand, claims that Ukrainian troops fired on the facility.
“It’s obvious that Russia blew up the dam”
For Stefan Meister from the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), however, the situation is clear. “It’s obvious that Russia has blown up the dam,” he says in an interview with FOCUS online.
Meister has been dealing with Moscow’s foreign, domestic and security policy for years. “Russian troops planted explosive charges on the dam at the beginning of the war,” he says. “The Russian narrative is that Ukrainian missiles destroyed the dam.”
According to the political scientist, the way in which the stone wall was demolished clearly indicates explosive charges in the machine house and on the dam. In addition, the “costs for Ukraine are much larger and longer-term than for Russia”.
This is shown by looking at the flood area, which includes around 80 places. Agricultural areas for important grain cultivation are flooded. Thousands of people need to be saved.
“Russia probably underestimated the disadvantages”
The masses of water not only rob the local population of their homes, some even cost them their lives. “We know there are casualties, probably many of them dead,” National Security Council communications director John Kirby said at the White House on Tuesday.
At the same time, he pointed out that these are the first reports and that no exact figures are available yet. “We cannot say conclusively at this point in time what happened.” The extent of the disaster is therefore still unclear.
What is certain, however, is that the blasting of the dam also had unpleasant consequences for the occupiers. In 2014 Russia annexed Crimea. The Black Sea Peninsula is supplied with water from the Kachowka Reservoir.
The breach of the dam could now threaten a water shortage. The flood is also rumored to have washed away Russian minefields and other military equipment.
Meister admits that the occupiers may not have expected to cause so much destruction. “Russia probably underestimated the disadvantages for the occupied territories,” he says.
The water masses create obstacles for the planned major Ukrainian offensive
However, he also says: “The storage facilities in Crimea are full and there are currently no water problems.” The equipment that may have been swept away by the floods was “strategically irrelevant” and “could have been destroyed by the Ukrainian artillery without any problems “.
So he believes that the strategic gains that the dam failure brought to Ukraine are ultimately not great enough to justify an attack on the plant. That is exactly what Moscow is accusing Ukraine of.
At the same time, Meister recognizes a new level of aggravation. “We see that Russia is now entering a next stage of escalation with the destruction of Ukraine’s second largest dam and is ready to make large areas of Ukraine uninhabitable in order to gain military advances,” he says.
In his opinion, Russia blew up the dam mainly for military reasons. Because: The water masses create obstacles for the planned major Ukrainian offensive.
Apparently Moscow accepts sacrifices more easily
In his opinion, the maneuver also has something to do with the long-term “destruction of Ukraine against the background that this war will not be won”.
In Meister’s eyes, it’s clear that Moscow accepts human sacrifices more easily than Kiev. Other experts recently argued in a similar direction. Russia wants to show the West that it knows no red lines and is now taking the war to a new level, they said.
Moscow’s goal is to get the West to influence Kiev so that peace negotiations can take place. But Zelenskyy emphasizes that Ukraine will not be stopped in its liberation struggle by water or rockets.
Weapons and ammunition from the West are the only way. He demands that everything be done to help the people in the region who are already desperate because of the war.