What Really Happened To Kakhovka Dam

Some open-source intelligence analysts suggest that the Kakhovka Dam may have collapsed on its own due to ‘unprecedentedly high’ levels of water in the reservoir.

On the morning of June 6, water began to flow uncontrollably down the Dnipro River after the Kakhovka dam in the Russian-occupied part of Ukraine’s Kherson region was destroyed. Kyiv says the Russian military blew up the dam. Moscow, on the other hand, blames “Ukrainian military groups.” Meanwhile, some open-source intelligence analysts suggest that the dam may have collapsed on its own due to “unprecedentedly high” levels of water in the reservoir. Nickolai Denisov, a geographer and one of the founders of the Swiss environmental non-profit organization Zoi Environment Network, has studied the ecological consequences of the war in the Donbas since 2014 and the destructive impacts of Russia’s full-scale invasion on Ukraine’s ecology. Meduza asked Denisov to help decipher the contradictory accounts of what happened to the dam and explain the subsequent flooding’s possible consequences.

What do we presently know about the destruction of the Kakhovka dam? Based on reports from the Ukrainian energy company Ukrhydroenergo, an explosion occurred in the engine room, effectively destroying the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant, says geographer Nickolai Denisov.

The water will only stop flowing from the reservoir when it reaches either the Dnipro river’s natural limits or the lowered level at which the dam might still operate, Denisov told Meduza, adding that it’s unlikely much water will be left over in the Kakhovka reservoir after the flooding is done.

According to Ukrhydroenergo, this could take anywhere from two to four days.

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Ukrhydroenergo, the Ukrainian state-owned enterprise responsible for overseeing numerous power plants along the Dnipro and Dnister rivers, lost control over the Kakhovka plant months ago, making it unclear exactly how the facility was administered or under what conditions it was operating before Tuesday. “It’s hard to say who did what wrong where,” explains Denisov, but he supposes that the reservoir’s water level before Tuesday’s explosion was likely due more to natural conditions than mismanagement.

A report from the Washington Post (WaPo) in late December gives credence to Ukraine’s long-term plan to blow up the Kakhova Dam, which has been exposed.

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