The World Today for June 14, 2023

NEED TO KNOW

When the Levee Breaks

RUSSIA/ UKRAINE

Theories abound about the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam in Russian-occupied southern Ukraine.

As CNN reported, Russian officials said the Ukrainians destroyed the dam in order to starve the Crimean Peninsula of water. The region is a former Ukrainian peninsula that Russia annexed in 2014. Ukrainians have been fighting to isolate and retake it from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military forces.

The Ukrainians claimed they intercepted communications between Russian military officers about a sabotage team that was targeting the dam, noted Radio Free Europe.

Experts determined that an internal explosion using hundreds of pounds of explosives in the Russian-controlled facility likely caused the damage, the New York Times added, though they still can’t say exactly who put the bombs there. Seismic data also suggested that an internal blast caused the incident, according to NBC News.

In terms of the fighting, the flooding that resulted from the dam’s destruction would prevent Ukrainian forces from launching an amphibious invasion that they had planned across the Dnieper River as part of the springtime offensive they began earlier this month, Newsweek wrote. Those forces were instead probing along the Russian lines of resistance in search of the soft areas in Zaporizhzhia to the north where they might attack, the BBC reported.

The dam’s collapse also caused a humanitarian and environmental disaster, damaging farmland and river ecosystems while diverting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s attention. Around 14 people died. About 6,000 people were evacuated. Many stayed behind, however. The Associated Press interviewed elderly folks trapped between floodwaters and the fighting, for example, as Russian soldiers intercepted Ukrainian rescuers and demanded to see Russian passports.

Russian forces were also shelling flooded areas as responders sought to help those living downstream from the massive reservoir that was behind the dam, CBS News wrote.

That reservoir, incidentally, also provided the water to cool the six-reactor Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe. While the plant can operate safely in the short term, it’s now functioning, dangerously, in a grace period, warned the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said whoever was to blame for the dam’s destruction had caused a catastrophe. In a statement reprinted in the Hill, Vasyl Malyuk, the head of Ukraine’s intelligence agency, cited the dam’s destruction and subsequent flooding as evidence of war crimes. Moscow has “finally proved that it is a threat to the entire civilized world,” said Malyuk.

Meanwhile, the tanks keep rolling.

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