KYIV — Ukrainian officials insist the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam, which unleashed massive flooding in the Kherson region, won’t stand in the way of Kyiv’s counteroffensive.
“Ukraine is equipped with all the necessary watercraft and pontoon bridge crossings for crossing water obstacles,” the Strategic Communications Center of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (Stratcom) said in a statement on Tuesday. “Ukraine is ready to restore and rebuild the territories liberated from Russian aggression.”
Western leaders, including NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and EU High Representative Josep Borrell, among others, have blamed Moscow for blowing up the dam, which is located in an area of Ukraine occupied by Russian forces. Kyiv argues that the Kremlin was seeking to flood the areas around it to make them less accessible to Ukrainian tanks and personnel in a counteroffensive.
Ukraine has been warning that Russia would seek to destroy the dam since last October, when Kyiv launched its surprise counteroffensive and regained swathes of territory from Moscow’s forces.
Russia, after initially claiming the dam had burst of its own accord on Tuesday, subsequently blamed Ukraine’s forces for bombing it. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov claimed Kyiv had sabotaged the dam, which supplied water to the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula, to deprive it of water.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rejected this argument, saying in a video address to the Bucharest Nine Summit on Tuesday: “Russia has been controlling the dam and the entire Kakhovka HPP for more than a year. It is physically impossible to blow it up somehow from the outside, by shelling. It was mined by the Russian occupiers. And they blew it up.”
Meanwhile, last week, a Russian government decree suspended requirements to investigate incidents at energy infrastructure in occupied Ukraine.
On Monday, a day before the dam was blown up, the Kremlin claimed Russia had prevented Ukraine’s counteroffensive. Kyiv dismissed that idea, stating instead that its forces had succeeded in retaking some territory around Bakhmut, the town in Donbas that Russia’s forces claimed to have full control over.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Russia responded with another barrage of airstrikes aimed mostly at Kyiv; Ukraine shot all 35 missiles down.
Gabriel Gavin contributed reporting.