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Zelensky: Russia mines Kakhovka dam, threatens to flood Kherson
President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia is deliberately creating the grounds for a large-scale disaster in Ukraine's southern Kherson Oblast.
"We have information that Russians mined the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant," Zelensky said in an Oct. 20 address to the European Council.
The Kakhovka dam holds about 18 million cubic meters of water. If destroyed, over 80 settlements, including the regional capital Kherson, will be flooded, Zelensky said. The president added that an international observation mission is needed, as "hundreds of thousands of people may be affected."
The Kakhovka Hydroelectric Station is located 70 kilometers northeast of the Russian-occupied Kherson. The city next to the dam, Nova Kakhovka, is also occupied by Russia.
On Oct. 20, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said that Russian forces were setting conditions to conduct a false-flag attack on the Kakhovka power plant near Kherson. Oleksiy Hromov, a top officer at the General Staff, said that the Russian command may withdraw experienced forces from Kherson and might keep only freshly mobilized troops on the right bank of the Dnipro River.
The Oct. 18 announcement by the commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, Sergei Surovikin, shows that "the Russian authorities are seriously considering a major withdrawal of their forces from the area west of the Dnipro River," according to the U.K. Defense Ministry.
Russia would face a severe challenge of extracting troops and equipment across the 1,000-meter wide river, reads the report.
Surovikin's comments come as Russia had announced that Ukraine had renewed its counteroffensive in the south that had already liberated tens of villages in the region and pushed 30 kilometers deep into Russian-occupied territory.
Russian-proxy leader in Kherson Oblast, on Oct. 18, announced an "organized displacement" of 50,000–60,000 Ukrainians from Kherson Oblast to the territories "on the Dnipro River's left bank." The city of Kherson is fully located on the river's right bank.
"If Russia is preparing such a terrorist attack, if it is seriously considering such a scenario, it means that the terrorists are very clearly aware that they will not be able to hold not only to Kherson but the entire south of our country, including Crimea," Zelensky said in his evening address. He said that the world needs to make it clear to Russia that attacks on the Kakhovka dam "will mean exactly the same as the use of weapons of mass destruction."