Moscow is reportedly gearing up to blow up a major dam and blame Ukraine for the attack in a move that would flood the entire Black Sea port city of Kherson. The Institute for the Study of War, a US-based think tank, has warned that the incident could cause mass deaths and destruction in Kherson, where Russia reportedly wants to withdraw its troops from as it is struggling to resupply its soldiers. But Kyiv is aware of Russia’s plan, with President Volodymyr Zelensky calling for an international observation mission to prevent a potential catastrophe at the dam’s hydroelectric plant.
Mr Zelensky said on Thursday via a video link meeting to EU leaders in Brussels: “We have information that Russian terrorists mined the dam and aggregates of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant. The water supply to a large part of the south of Ukraine may be destroyed.”
The Soviet-built Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant, which the dam is part of, is around 35 miles upstream from Kherson city. The dam provides electricity for hundreds of thousands of people via hydroelectric power.
According to environmentalists, an attack could trigger an “atomic bomb” of water that would sweep through villages and throughout the only significant city which Russia has managed to capture since first invading Ukraine back in mid-February.
And Mr Zelensky has also warned that the dam is a serious security risk as it could leave the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the largest nuclear facility in Europe, without the water needed to cool its facilities.
This comes after Commander of Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine Army General Sergey Surovikin reported during an appearance on Russian television that the Russian military leadership will need to make “difficult decisions” over Kherson, accusing Kyiv of a plan to strike civilian and residential infrastructure in the city.
Mr Surovikin later claimed on October 18 that he received information that Ukraine will strike the dam at the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant.
Meanwhile, the Russian-appointed governor of Kherson, Vladimir Saldo, has also said that Ukraine is planning such an attack. He said in a video this week: “There is an immediate danger of flooding … due to the planned destruction of the Kakhovka dam and the release of water from a cascade of power plants further up the Dnipro.”
According to the Institute for the Study of war’s report, the Kremlin “could attempt to leverage such a false-flag attack to overshadow the news of a third humiliating retreat for Russian forces, this time from western Kherson.
READ MORE: Major energy step as new rooftop tech to deliver more power than solar
The think tank said in its report: “Saldo’s announcement of a mass withdrawal from the west bank of the Dnipro River is likely intended in part to evacuate Russian occupation officials, collaborators, and other occupation organs in anticipation of imminent Ukrainian advances.
“Such an attack would also further the false Russian information operation portraying Ukraine as a terrorist state that deliberately targets civilians”.
Russia has refused to back up the claims, with no evidence surfacing as of yet. Kremlin-backed officials in the Kherson— one of four Ukrainian regions to have been annexed by Russia following “illegal” referendums last month, have claimed they were planning to evacuate up to 60,000 residents from the area ahead of an incoming Ukrainian counteroffensive.
The attack on the dam would also signal another major blow to the already battered Ukrainian energy grid. Currently, citizens are bracing for four-hour-long rolling blackouts after missiles and drones rained down on Ukraine over the last week, taking out a third of the country’s power plants.
Elon Musk’s UK rival crashes rocket in sea after Iceland test fails [REPORT]
Putin’s energy threat backfires as Russia to bow to China [INSIGHT]
‘Major incident’ declared as all communication to Shetlands Isles CUT [REVEAL]
More than 300 Russian drone and missile attacks were unleashed on Ukraine in the past 10 days alone. The blackouts began at 7am local time today and are set to finish at 10pm,
Locals have been urged to be “especially conscious of electricity consumption” during these times, with Mr Zelenskey stressing that households should avoid using unnecessary appliances as he raised the alarm over possible local “stabilisation blackouts”.
He said in his video address to the EU summit: “Russian terror against our energy facilities is aimed at creating as many problems with electricity and heat as possible for Ukraine this autumn and winter so that more Ukrainians go to European countries.”
This comes just one week after 30 percent of Ukraine’s critical energy infrastructure was targeted over the course of eight days as Kyiv urged the West to provide air defence systems to fend off Russia’s brutal attacks.
But since then, there have been more than 300 strikes on more Ukrainian energy facilities since October 10, when the barrage of missiles first started to rain down on at least 10 different cities across the country, including the capital.