VIDEO | Andonovic: Three scenarios for the collapse of the dam in Nova Kakhovka

Analysis with Dejan Andonović/ Photo Sloboden Pechat, EPA-EFE/GEORGE IVANCHENKO

It still remains a mystery as to who is behind yesterday's blasting of the Ukrainian dam at Nova Kakhovka

The analyzes went in three directions, but, according to the Western media, it is most likely that Russia is behind the collapse

Just a day after the Ukrainians apparently finally launched their long-awaited counteroffensive, news broke that a huge dam had collapsed near Nova Kakhovka, a town on the south side of the Dnieper River still under Russian control.

In parallel with the videos of the huge flood that occurred downstream to the city of Kherson and with the reports of the consequences of this human-caused flood, a series of mutual accusations followed the established pattern: Ukraine and its allies blame Russia, Russia and its supporters blame Ukraine.

The Ukrainians claim that the Russian army blew up the dam after it was detonated as a precaution late last year, but, as Kiev has indicated, it is not known for sure whether the dam was actually blown up with explosives.

Against this, the Russian military claims that the Ukrainian soldiers destroyed the dam with artillery or rocket attacks, as they accused in the past, but they did not offer evidence for this either, and the photos and videos of the destroyed dam do not show the craters, typical of rocket attacks.

First scenario: The Russians destroyed the dam

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blamed "Russian terrorists" for the sabotage and told them that "they will not be able to stop Ukraine with either water or missiles." In a later statement, he specified that the Russians blew up the dam and then blew it up "from the inside" around 3 a.m. Tuesday. And local residents started posting on social media that they heard a big explosion right when the dam was breached.

But at least not yet, the Ukrainians have presented no evidence of Russian culpability for the dam collapse, even though the chairman of Ukraine's National Security Council, Oleksiy Danilov, claimed to have intelligence that the Russian 205th Motorized Brigade carried out the bombing of the dam. The alleged correspondence of the members of that brigade about the blasting plans was also leaked on social networks.

Both engineering and military experts agree with their version of events and assess that a deliberate detonation in the dam is the most likely cause. Structural failure or an external attack are possible but less likely explanations, they added, explaining that an external missile strike would require a much larger amount of explosives to produce an effect comparable to an internal detonation.

An identical claim was made by experts from "Ukrhydroenergo", the company that manages the dam, according to which a rocket attack would not have caused such destruction because this power plant was built to withstand an atomic bomb.

The American authorities also confirmed to NBC that according to their intelligence data, it is Russia that is responsible for the collapse of the dam.

The dam, 30 meters high and 3 kilometers long, had a motor vehicle track at the top, which was also the last bridge for crossing the Dnieper River to the south of the country. Some analysts speculate that the Russians may have wanted to destroy only that road corridor. Given that the Dnieper is the current demarcation line, it is clear that this bridge may have been key to the eventual implementation of the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

After the collapse of this last bridge over the broad bed of the Dnieper River, the only option for the Ukrainian counter-offensive is to carry out a high-risk landing across this huge river or limit military action to the part of the country east of the Dnieper. Ukraine's Ministry of Defense admitted that this "ends any hope that Ukrainian army troops will be able to launch a successful assault across the river", thus admitting that an amphibious assault is not a realistic option.

It is also clear that this is a significant relief for the defending side, in the case of Russia, and, at least in the short term, wants to keep the conquered territory because it has completely exhausted its offensive capabilities. Therefore, it is quite possible that it is a "hysterical reaction" of Russian forces in fear of an attack, as the Ukrainian army claims. On that day, the Ukrainians began a breakthrough on the eastern front, but it is clear that the Russians expected an attack in the Kherson area as well.

Second scenario – the Ukrainians destroyed the dam

The Russian mayor of Nova Kakhovka, Vladimir Leontiev, called the blasting of the dam a Ukrainian "terrorist attack".

It is also significant that the Russian side changed the story of the incident several times in the same day – including Leontiev himself, who, as Ukrainian independent journalist Volodymyr Tretyak reminds us, denied the news that the dam was blown up at 6 a.m. in Tuesday. and claimed that it was not known why the water level was rising. An hour later he accused the Ukrainians of shelling the dam.

The Russian army deployed in the Zaporozhye region said the dam collapsed due to previous damage and water pressure. They called it deliberate sabotage from the Ukrainian side."

Both Russian and Ukrainian authorities are now busy evacuating and rescuing affected residents, although many Russian-held residents say they are left to fend for themselves. Experts state that due to the subsidence of the left bank of the Dnieper, the floods are more intense on that, that is, on the Russian side. The small town of Oleshki on that coast is completely under water.

According to some reports, the torrent has already washed away Russian front-line defensive fortifications, as well as the minefields they laid to halt the Ukrainian offensive.

The reservoir of the Nova Kakhovka hydropower plant, which contained about 18 cubic kilometers of water, supplies drinking water to almost two million inhabitants of the Crimean peninsula. It also supplies the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, with water to cool its reactors. Both Crimea and the part of Zaporozhye where the nuclear plant is located are under Russian military control, and Moscow formally annexed them in 2014 and 2022.

The reservoir supplies Crimea with drinking water through a canal that the Ukrainians previously blocked due to Russian occupation, as well as the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, otherwise Europe's largest, north of the dam. The Director General of the International Nuclear Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, warned of the danger to nuclear reactors in the event of a prolonged water shortage, but added that there was no immediate danger because the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant had alternative sources of water.

All this points to the fact that Russia will lose more by breaching the dam than the Ukrainians, which raises the question - did the Ukrainians still have a greater interest in sabotaging or destroying the dam?

As proof of this thesis, they refer to an alleged article in the "Washington Post" from last December, according to which Ukrainian general Andriy Kovalchuk carried out a "test attack" with the American HIMARS missile system on the upper part of the dam, in order to check whether it could to cause a controlled rise in the water level. The article states that the test was successful, but that in the end the Ukrainians still gave up on such a radical move.

Some of the world critics who equate both Kiev and Moscow as responsible for this war say that if the Ukrainians blew up the North Stream, why wouldn't they blow up the Nova Kakhovka dam as well.

The third scenario – Before the dam collapsed, it was previously damaged

However, there is a third scenario – neither the Russians nor the Ukrainians intentionally destroyed the dam, but that it gave way under the pressure of the very high water level and previous damage.

Satellite images released by the American company Maxar Technologies show that the dam was damaged a day before it was completely destroyed.

Residents of a nearby village also complained last month of local flooding, which they blamed on Russia's management of the dam, claiming in an interview with Reuters that water levels began rising in April, sometimes by as much as 30cm a day, and that since then the water level in this part of the river remained elevated.

Mutual accusations continue and the outcome of who will be guilty will probably be known after the winner and loser of this war are known.

And maybe even then the culprit will not be revealed.

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