Deadly missile strike hits medical clinic in Ukraine: live updates
POKROVSK, Ukraine — Russian forces blew up a dam on a river in eastern Ukraine, causing water levels to rise in what the Ukrainian military said Friday was an attempt to flood its downstream supply lines.
A missile attack Thursday afternoon on the locks of the Karlovskaya Dam in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine marked what appears to be the latest use of flooding as a tactic in the 15-month war. The rivers that cross Ukraine constitute one of the few natural barriers between Russian and Ukrainian forces, and both sides have used them to block advance or attempt to attack each other’s pontoon bridges.
Rushing torrents of water gushed out of the collapsed dam, according to a video released Thursday by Ukraine’s regional military director Pavel Kirilenko on messaging app Telegram. He said local authorities had evacuated 26 people from their homes and a flood warning had been issued in villages downstream of the Vovcha River.
Russian troops “continuously shelled” the dam for several months, he said. Kirilenko wrote to Telegram before launching a direct hit on its gateways.
“Civilians will be the first to suffer from these actions,” he said.
The flood flooded the area of intense military operations of Ukrainian troops near the front line. The military closed off the area downstream of the dam, citing security concerns.
“Russia is predictable in its actions. This was stated in an interview by the representative of the 59th brigade of Ukraine, which operates in the area, Sergei Tsekhotsky. “They do the same thing over and over again.”
Both Ukraine and Russia throughout the war used the rivers and their crossings to block the advance of the other side.
In the first days of the war, the Ukrainian military blew the dam gate flood the Irpen River valley north of Kyiv, blocking one route to the capital for Russian tank columns and buying time to prepare defenses, but flooding several dozen houses in the area.
In September last year, Russian troops fired a salvo of missiles at dam near the city of Krivoy Rog in central Ukraine, the explosion of one of two locks, according to Ukrainian officials, was an attempt to wash away Ukrainian military pontoon crossings downstream of the Ingulets River. Ukraine needed pontoon crossings, which were also attacked by Russian artillery and aerial bombardments, for a counter-offensive that eventually drove Russian forces out of the city of Kherson.
To show the value of this dam as a military target, Russia fired seven state-of-the-art Iskander and Kinzhal missiles at the locks. But only one of the two locks was damaged, local authorities said at the time, resulting in a more gradual release of water from the reservoir than if the strike had destroyed both.
Pontoon crossings downstream were not affected, but the water level in the Ingulets River rose by two meters and flooded the microdistricts of Krivoy Rog.
The Government of Ukraine has repeatedly warned of the risk that Russia will blow up a large hydroelectric power station on the Dnieper River to discharge water from the Kakhovka reservoir. Ukrainian officials have suggested that the purpose of such a strike would be to flood coastal communities and Ukrainian military installations downstream or create an emergency at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, which takes cooling water from the reservoir.
Russian troops occupying the eastern bank of the river in the area of the Kakhovka dam and controlling the locks, for unclear reasons regulate the water level in the reservoir, according to Ukrainian officials.
Over the winter, water levels in the reservoir dropped to their lowest level in four decades, depriving Ukrainian cities upstream of their water supply. During a spring period of heavy snowmelt, the Russian military allowed water to accumulate to levels that Ukrainian officials said were so high as to jeopardize the integrity of the dam.
Altimeter date — which uses satellites to measure altitude — published last week by Theia, a French earth data provider, showed the water level in the reservoir. hit a 30-year high increasing the likelihood of flooding in the area and signaling a lack of regulation.