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Ukraine war latest: Zelensky accuses Russia of preparing to blow up dam in Kherson Oblast, causing ‘historic disaster’

by Asami Terajima October 21, 2022 1:16 AM 4 min read
A building lies in ruins after being destroyed during fighting between Ukrainian and Russian occupying forces in the liberated city of Lyman, Donetsk Oblast on Oct. 20, 2022. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
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Key developments of Oct. 20
  • Zelensky accuses Russia of preparing to blow up dam in Kherson Oblast
  • Minister: Russia carries out nearly 300 strikes on Ukraine’s energy facilities in 10 days
  • About 1,500 civilians killed in Kharkiv Oblast since February
  • Russia fires 3 missile strikes, 20 airstrikes across Ukraine

President Volodymyr Zelensky on Oct. 20 accused Russia of planning to blow up a major dam at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station in the occupied territory of Kherson Oblast in southern Ukraine.

Zelensky said that his government learned that Russian forces had mined the dam and units of the power facility, preparing what he called “a historical disaster.” The dam is holding a massive water reservoir.

“If Russian terrorists blow up this dam, more than 80 settlements, including Kherson, will be in the zone of rapid flooding,” the president said in his video address to the European Council. “Hundreds of thousands of people can fall victim to it.”

Zelensky’s accusation comes nearly two months into Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the south, aimed at recapturing Kherson, the only regional capital that Russians have captured since the start of the full-scale invasion in February.

Russian proxies announced on Oct. 19 they were leaving Kherson, which stands on the west bank of the Dnipro River, and moving to the east bank, where Ukrainian forces aren’t advancing. They urged people to follow, and claimed, on Oct. 20, that about 15,000 residents of Kherson Oblast had been relocated from the west to the east bank of the river.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a U.S. defense think-tank, had previously said that Russia may be planning a “false-flag attack” on Kakhovka hydroelectric power station to frame Ukraine.

“The Russian military may believe that breaching the dam could cover their retreat from the right bank of the Dnipro River and prevent or delay Ukrainian advances across the river,” the ISW report said on Oct. 19.

Zelensky: Russia mines Kakhovka dam, threatens to flood Kherson

Eastern battlefield

In Ukraine's northeast, Kharkiv Oblast Governor Oleh Synyehubov said that there are 32 towns and villages (about 2% of the entire region) that are still under Russian control.

In the mostly occupied Luhansk Oblast, Russian forces are heavily shelling the villages on the western part of the region that Ukraine had recently liberated, “destroying” them, Governor Serhiy Haidai said on TV.

In neighboring Donetsk Oblast, Russians are shelling along the front line in the directions of Siversk, Bakhmut, and Avdiivka, according to Ukraine’s General Staff.

In the region’s occupied city of Mariupol, exiled mayor Vadym Boychenko claimed that Russia is planning to mobilize up to 10,000 Ukrainian men. The Kyiv Independent could not confirm the information.


Russia has carried out nearly 300 strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure since Oct. 10, Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said on TV. Before, Zelensky said that these attacks destroyed or damaged 30% of the country’s power stations.

In the wake of Russia’s targeted attacks on energy facilities, the government urged residents to reduce their electricity usage between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.

The nationwide curbs on power consumption began early on Oct. 20. Citizens had to check the local rotation schedule to know when they can expect a temporary power outage.

In northern Sumy Oblast, electric public transport and street lights were turned off to reduce electricity consumption, Governor Dmytro Zhyvytsky said. The water supply was not working either in the city of Sumy on Oct. 20.

Meanwhile, Russian forces struck an energy infrastructure site and an industrial enterprise in central Dnipropetrovsk Oblast overnight, causing “serious destruction” to the sites, Governor Valentyn Reznichenko said.

Russia has previously named Ukraine’s energy facilities among its key “designated targets.”

A woman cooks in a makeshift kitchen in the poorly lit basement of the apartment block where she now lives amid ongoing fighting between Ukrainian and Russian occupying forces liberated in Lyman, Donetsk Oblast on Oct. 20, 2022. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Casualties and attacks

Russian forces launched three missile strikes and 20 airstrikes across Ukraine on Oct. 20, according to Ukraine’s General Staff.

About 1,500 civilians have been killed in Kharkiv Oblast since the start of the full-scale invasion, Oleksandr Filchakov, head of the regional prosecutor's office, said on Oct. 20.

On Oct. 20, Donetsk Oblast Pavlo Kyrylenko reported that 12 bodies of civilians were found across the liberated territory in the embattled region.

According to the regional police department, the bodies of 111 civilians and 35 soldiers were found in Lyman’s mass burial site.

In Ukraine’s southeast, Russian forces used S-300 missile systems to strike a village in Zaporizhzhia Oblast overnight, destroying a two-story apartment building and a local school for social rehabilitation, Governor Oleksandr Starukh reported.

At least 19 civilians were killed across Ukraine over the past day, Deputy Head of President's Office Kyrylo Tymoshenko said on Oct. 20.

Surrounded and desperate: How Russia lost Lyman
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