At eight o’clock on the evening of 18 August 1941, the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia was shaken by an enormous explosion. Within a few minutes, a massive wave of Dnieper water engulfed the lower part of Khortytsia and the southern districts of the city. According to various estimates, tens of thousands of people drowned in the waters. Among them were residents who lived along the banks of the Dnieper and soldiers of the Red Army who were crossing to the left bank that evening.
It later became known that the water surged after an explosion that partially destroyed the world’s then-third biggest dam, the Dnipro hydroelectric power plant, which was orchestrated by Red Army soldiers Boris Epov and Oleksiy Petrovsky. The saboteurs carrying out their special mission did not inform either the local population or the military leadership about the impending explosion.
There are almost no witnesses left of that tragedy. A native of Zaporizhzhia, Oleksiy Dochenko, shared in an interview with the “1+1” TV channel that the events of that night are forever etched in his memory. The Dnieper turned red with the blood of Ukrainian people and animals.
“There were cries for help and cries for rescue. Cows were bellowing, pigs were squealing, and people were climbing trees. Well, why did he, wet as he was, climb up and stay there for so long?!” recalls Oleksiy Dochenko.
Historians say that it was an operation carried out by the NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs). It has been documented that the order to destroy or damage the Dnipro hydroelectric dam was personally given by Joseph Stalin. To carry out the explosion, 20 tons of high-quality explosives were planted in the dam, which had been delivered the day before by two planes from Moscow.
The Soviet explosion killed thousands of Ukrainians on that horrifying day. The destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam on the night between 2 and 3 June 2023 is another chapter of what increasingly looks like an attempt at modern-day genocide of Ukrainians and ecocide inflicted upon Ukrainian land.
I don’t even know where to start. My mind hasn’t stopped racing since I got the devastating news. I don’t know if I can find the words to express what this past week has been for every Ukrainian. This was the worst ecocide of the 21st century. The weight of devastation hangs heavy over everything around me. In this moment of anguish, all I can feel is a profound sadness for the loss of innocent life, for the destroyed land and for the unimaginable devastation that is yet to come.
For this generation of Ukrainians who are paying the ultimate price all over again, these scars may never heal. Even in the face of despair Ukrainians always find hope and strength to go on. But this week, it is exceedingly difficult to cope with the scale of madness and devastation.
It is truly impossible to fully grasp the Russian cowardice and depravity of their propaganda lapdogs who find it effective to blame the victim, the Ukrainian people, for destroying the Ukrainian dam and ruining so many Ukrainian lives, possessions, productive land and production facilities. So today, I want to just state simple facts. They are all available online for anyone who’s looking for truth.
With all my heart I want to write about our unbelievably brave and resourceful people. About how in the face of this unprecedented crisis created by Putin’s murderous hoard, I once more see our people, who haven’t had a day of peace for more than a year and a half, standing tall as warriors for their homes, their children, their land.
I see my country coming together, organising, volunteering and donating to help those in grave danger. I see the people of Ukraine fighting to save every single creature that managed to survive the floodwaters. I see thousands of cars of ordinary people rushing to the Kherson region to deliver humanitarian aid, food and water. I see trucks full of spared animals arriving in shelters across Ukraine. All of them are heavily shelled by Russians who not only did not stop targeting civilians with bombs, missiles and artillery fire, but they intensified their pressure.
Once again, and way too often, we are united as a nation by unimaginable tragedy and demand accountability from the very silent international organisations.
So here are the facts:
1) Russian terrorists blew up Kakhovka Dam on the Dnipro River causing the worst ecocide in the 21st century.
2) The dam was fully under Russian control on the territory occupied by Russia for more than a year, since mid-March 2022
3) The Kakhovka dam was designed and built to withstand a massive attack so it was impossible to destroy it with missiles. The missiles for the “Vilha”, or HIMARS systems used by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, have a warhead weighing between 100-200kg. To destroy a strong dam structure, hundreds of times more explosives would be needed. To remind you, in 1941, to undermine several spans of the Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Station, Soviet forces had to use around 20 tons of explosives. We’ve seen it with a similar structure – Antonow Bridge in Kherson, which withstood missile attacks for months and months of everyday shelling.
4) There are multiple statements on Russian state TV that go as follows: “It wasn’t us, but we should continue and blow up all the other dams on the Dnipro”.
Russian military serviceman Yegor Guzenko said in Monday Telegram comments: “I told you we would blow up the dam… some of you said it wouldn’t happen… but now you see. From the tactical point of view, this means that a route across the Dnipro River is closed to the Ukrainian army.”
Russian soldier Yegor Guzenko, who is fighting in the Kherson region, admitted that Russia blew up the dam in Nova Kakhovka to stop Ukrainian army
He also said that the Russian army should also blow up other dams on the Dnieper pic.twitter.com/h0xpkXUZSB
— Денис Казанський (@den_kazansky) June 6, 2023
Ukraine urged the international community to respond multiple times in the past year-and-a-half. Multiple times.
5) A week before the explosion of the Nova Kakhovka the Russian authorities changed their legislation. Now it allows for accidents at hazardous facilities that occurred as a result of “military actions” and terrorist attacks not to be investigated. This decision applies to temporarily occupied territories that Russia considers its own.
6) Russia withdrew its military from this high-risk counteroffensive region.
7) This terrorist act impacts on the next Ukrainian moves. The Kherson direction was, according to almost all Ukrainian, Russian, and Western experts, considered one of the focal points for the planned Great Ukrainian Counteroffensive.
By the end of April, there were even reports emerging that the Armed Forces of Ukraine managed to establish a foothold on the islands in the middle of the Dnipro River and cross to the left bank in the area of Kherson.
Moving through the occupied territory of the left bank of the Kherson region is the shortest route to the Crimean isthmuses. Once reached, the Ukrainian army would be able to put the enemy’s logistics in the south under considerable pressure.
8) Russian puppet in occupied Crimea, “Head of Crimea” Sergey Aksyonov, has also commented on the explosion at the Nova Kakhovka as it is Crimea’s main source of water: “All of the water reservoirs in Crimea are full. Reservoirs, even those that were previously filled to 15-20%, currently have about 80% capacity,” he wrote in his Telegram account.
So, we are to believe that out of the blue, for no reason whatsoever, the Russians decided to fill all the water reservoirs in Crimea.
9) This egregious fact also continues Russia’s nuclear blackmail policy, as it will complicate the security situation at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station. The power plant used water from Nova Kakhovka dam to cool the nuclear reactors. Unfortunately, we currently do not know what the situation is at Zaporizhzhia.
10) This act also helps Russia’s blackmail policy on world food security to continue. A lot of the land they’ve destroyed is the land where our crops are grown.
11) We are doing everything possible (and sometimes impossible) not only to save our people, but every living being. There are people still trapped on the roofs. Our volunteers on occupied territories, risking their lives, go by boats at night and rescue our people.
These are the facts about this unthinkable disaster. Once again, pray for my country and my people.
And, anyone who still stands with Russia should by now clearly know who they are standing with. DM