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Nova Kakhovka dam: everything you need to know about the incident

Nova Kakhovka dam: everything you need to know about the incident Russian troops blow up the Kakhovka HPP (
Author: Maria Kholina

In a shocking incident, the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant in Ukraine was blown up by Russian troops on the night of June 6. The explosion has resulted in the flooding of several settlements in the Kherson region, leading local authorities to initiate evacuations. Read more about blowing up of the Kakhovka HPP on RBC-Ukraine.

According to a spokesperson for the Operational Command South, the extent of the damage caused by the explosion and the potential areas of flooding are currently being assessed. Various services are actively involved in addressing and monitoring of the situation.

Yuriy Sobolevsky, the Deputy Chairman of the Kherson Regional Council, has urged residents of the Kherson region to stay alert and closely follow the instructions of the UGA (Ukrainian Government Authorities) in the coming days.

  • In response to the crisis, units of the National Police and the State Emergency Service of Kherson region have been put on high alert. Their primary focus is to warn and evacuate civilians residing in the potential flood zones on the right bank of the Dnipro River.
  • The areas at risk of flooding include several villages such as Mykolayivka, Olhivka, Liovo, Tyahynka, Ponyativka, Ivanivka, Tokarivka, Prydniprovske, Sadove, and partially the city of Kherson.
  • The water level in the Kakhovka reservoir is rapidly decreasing at a rate of approximately 15 centimeters per hour. At 6:00 am, the Kherson Regional Water Administration estimated that it would take about 5 hours for the water to reach a critical level.
  • As of 7:30 am, the following settlements have been reported as completely or partially flooded: Tyahynka, Lvove, Vidradokamyanka, Ivanivka, Mykilske, Tokarivka, Poniativka, Bilozerka, and the Ostrov district in Kherson.
  • The situation is dire, with around 16,000 people residing in the critical zone on the right bank of the Kherson region. Up to 80 settlements are at risk of flooding, prompting President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to convene the National Security and Defense Council. A meeting of the State Commission on Technogenic and Environmental Safety and Emergency Situations is scheduled to take place soon.
  • Reports from occupied Nova Kakhovka indicate that the city zoo has been fully flooded. Local media have reported the unfortunate loss of some animals, while the fate of others remains unknown.

Location of the Kakhovka HPP

The Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant is situated in the southern region of Ukraine, approximately 5 km away from the town of Nova Kakhovka in the Kherson region. It plays a crucial role in regulating the flow of the Dnipro River, ensuring a stable supply of electricity, irrigation, and water to the arid regions of southern Ukraine. It also supports navigation from Kherson to Zaporizhzhia.

Evacuation underway in Kherson region

As the threat of flooding looms over several settlements in the Kherson region, the evacuation of residents has been swiftly organized. A train departing from the Kherson railway station to Mykolaiv has been arranged, with the departure scheduled for 12:00. Bus evacuations are being coordinated to Kherson, followed by routes to Mykolaiv and further to cities such as Khmelnytskyi, Odesa, Kropyvnytskyi, Kyiv, and others.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal emphasized the ongoing evacuation measures and the assessment of the environmental impact and potential threat to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. However, assessing the situation is challenging due to restricted access to the plant.

The head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration urged residents to gather their documents and essentials, ensure the safety of loved ones and pets, and await evacuation buses. He specifically addressed the residents of the Left Bank, urging them to take immediate action to protect themselves and leave the hazardous areas.

The Kherson City Council has announced that evacuations will be carried out by bus from the affected districts of Kherson and the flood-affected villages. Hospitals and utilities are on high alert to assist with the evacuation efforts.

As of 10:00 a.m., a total of 742 people have already been evacuated in the Kherson region.

The minister of internal affairs expressed concerns about the ongoing arrival of water and the challenging conditions caused by washed-out roads, which are hindering access to some settlements. Evacuation teams are actively seeking alternative routes.

Response from Ukrainian authorities

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for an emergency meeting of the National Security and Defense Council in response to the explosion at the Kakhovka reservoir dam. NSDC Secretary Oleksiy Danylov announced the decision on Twitter.

President Zelenskyy himself addressed the situation, highlighting that the destruction caused by Russian terrorists only reinforces the need to entirely drive them out of Ukrainian territory. He emphasized that every inch of Ukrainian land must be reclaimed from those who perpetrate acts of terror. Zelenskyy expressed confidence that Ukraine's victory will ultimately restore security and bring an end to the ongoing crisis.

Zelenskyy said that terrorists would fail to subdue Ukraine, regardless of the methods they employ.

"All services are functioning. I've convened the National Security and Defense Council. Please circulate only official and validated information," the President urged.

Andriy Yermak, head of the Office of the President (OP), said that the destruction of the Kakhovka HPP entails a water shortage in Crimea, and potential risks for the Zaporizhzhya NPP.

"Russians detonating the Kakhovka HPP is the epitome of recklessness. Such actions risk destroying settlements and the biosphere. Several areas have already experienced total or partial flooding. Additionally, this act of sabotaging the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant implies that Crimea will suffer a water deficit. This is ecological terrorism," he said.

Yermak also mentioned that the destruction of the Kakhovka HPP could jeopardize the Zaporizhzhya NPP, due to potential issues with reactor water cooling.

He further noted that these actions are Russia's attempt to hinder the advance of the Ukrainian Defense Forces.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba dubbed the explosion of the Kakhovka HPP the most significant technological catastrophe in Europe over the past decade.

"Russia obliterated the Kakhovka dam, likely triggering the most devastating technological disaster Europe has witnessed in years, and putting thousands of civilians at risk. This is an appalling war crime. The only way to stop Russia, the largest terrorist of the 21st century, is to drive it out of Ukraine," Kuleba said.

Subsequent updates following the power plant explosion

  • Water might flood the road to the Kinburn Spit. According to Vitaliy Kim, head of the Mykolaiv Regional State Administration, the Kinburn Spit is not at risk of flooding, although the road could potentially be submerged, briefly turning the spit into an island.
  • The Korabel district in Kherson is currently experiencing a power outage. Kherson city authorities reported that the Korabel district in Kherson is without electricity, and the gas supply will be shut off in the coming hours for safety purposes.
  • Why did the invaders destroy the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station? Natalia Humenyuk, spokesperson for the Southern Defense Forces, stated that the Russians aim to employ another man-made disaster as a means of pressuring Ukraine, including undermining the Ukrainian counteroffensive. However, comprehending the scale of their actions, the invaders are now initiating their own evacuation.
  • An emergency meeting is underway in Kryvyi Rih. The head of the military administration, Oleksandr Vilkul, described the situation as challenging.

A video from Kakhovka HPP has been published

As reported by the advisor to the head of the OP, several populated areas in the Kherson region are now completely or partially flooded.

The Kakhovka HPP has been completely destroyed, posing a threat to the Zaporizhzhya NPP

  • According to Ukraine's state-owned energy company Ukrhydroenergo, the Kakhovka HPP has been completely destroyed due to the internal blasting of the turbine hall. The station is beyond repair. A reservoir discharge is expected within the next 4 days.
  • As of 9:00 on June 6, the water level in the Kakhovka reservoir is rapidly declining, and the evacuation of the population from potential flooding areas is ongoing.
  • The uncontrolled drop in the reservoir's level poses an additional threat to the temporarily occupied Zaporizhzhya NPP. Water from the Kakhovka reservoir is required for the plant to receive feedwater for the turbine condensers and the safety systems of the NPP. Currently, the station's cooling pond is filled. The Ukrainian personnel of the NPP are monitoring all indicators.

The IAEA has responded to the destruction of the Kakhovka HPP.

"The IAEA is aware of reports concerning damage to the Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine. IAEA experts at the Zaporizhzhya NPP are closely monitoring the situation. There is no direct risk to nuclear safety at the plant," the agency said in a statement.

The Defense Intelligence of Ukraine identified the explosion as a clear act of terrorism

"This terrorist act has created a lethal danger for Ukrainian citizens in settlements on both banks of the Dnipro River below the Kakhovka reservoir. This is an unequivocal act of ecocide and an obvious war crime, the impact of which extends far beyond Ukraine and affects the ecosystem of the entire Black Sea region," stated the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense.

They emphasized that this crime by the Russian Federation increases the threat of a nuclear disaster, as the fill level of the cooling ponds of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power station depends on the water level in the Dnipro.

The Defense Intelligence of Ukraine said they had previously warned about the mining of the station by the occupiers.

"In April last year, additional mining of the gates and supports was carried out. Tented trucks loaded with explosives were placed on the dam itself. This terrorist act is a sign of panic from Putin's regime and an attempt to complicate the actions of Ukrainian Security and Defense Forces. It will be significant evidence at the international tribunal that awaits everyone involved in the commission of war crimes on Ukrainian territory," added the intelligence.

The 205th motor rifle division of the Russian Federation Armed Forces could have blown up the Kakhovka HPP

This was stated by the advisor to the head of the OP, Mykhailo Podoliak, on the Breakfast Show.

He said that the blow-up of the HPP can cause adjustments in Ukraine's counteroffensive plans, but strategically it will not change anything, but it will stimulate the desire to liberate Ukraine sooner.

Ecocide investigation launched over Kakhovka HPP explosion

Under the procedural guidance of the Kherson Regional Prosecutor's Office, pre-trial investigations in criminal proceedings have been initiated on the facts of ecocide and violations of laws and customs of war (Art. 441, Part 1 Art. 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).

Law enforcement agencies are taking measures to assess the scale of the destruction.

First steps are being taken to record the crime committed by the aggressor country's army.

World's response

President of the European Council Charles Michel stated that he is shocked by the destruction of the Kakhovka HPP dam.

According to him, the destruction of civil infrastructure is clearly qualified as a war crime, and the EU "will hold Russia and its puppets accountable".

Kakhovka HPP is almost entirely underwater

Videos are being posted showing the Kakhovka HPP, which is almost entirely submerged.

Some neighborhoods of Kherson are already critically flooded. Evacuation continues from three gathering points at the Island district of the city.

The situation with water in other regions

The head of the Kryvyi Rih military administration, Oleksandr Vilkul, reported that 70% of Kryvyi Rih's water supply comes from the Kakhovka reservoir. Therefore, the water situation in the city is challenging but under control.

Currently, it's necessary to reduce consumption by 30% in areas supplied by Kakhovka. Hence, water conservation measures are being implemented:

1. Industrial water consumption must be minimized.
2. For residents, water pressure will be reduced from 10 PM to 5 AM. Water will only reach the first floors of buildings.
3. The use of hoses for watering is completely prohibited.
4. In villages along the Ingulets River downstream to Sofiyivka, water supply will only be from 8 AM to noon.

Meanwhile, water supply and sewerage company Kyivvodokanal reports that the situation with the explosion of the Kakhovka dam and the drainage of the Kakhovka reservoir will not affect Kyiv's water supply.

The water supply situation in the capital remains stable, all hydro-technical structures are operating normally, and there are no equipment failures.

The mayor of Mykolaiv reported that as of noon, the water level in the city's waters had risen by 18 cm. Currently, there's no threat of flooding.

Commander of the Joint Forces of the Armed Forces, reported that the Kyiv Hydroelectric Power Station is protected from aerial attacks and is secured against enemy reconnaissance and sabotage groups.

Zelenskyy held an emergency meeting of the National Security and Defense Council

According to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, 80 populated areas are flooded due to the hydroelectric power station's destruction.

Following the National Security and Defense Council meeting, he ordered evacuations from risk areas and to supply drinking water to all cities and villages that relied on the Kakhovka reservoir.

The meeting also agreed on a set of international and security measures to hold Russia accountable for this attack.

At least 150 tons of machine oil ended up in the Dnipro River

This was confirmed by the Presidential Office. They noted that this issue was discussed at the Security Council meeting, where they didn't rule out the risk of an additional leak of over 300 tons.

The water level in Kherson may rise to 5 meters

The head of Kherson's military administration said that due to the destruction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Station's dam and the rapid rise in the Dnipro River, part of Kherson might be hit by catastrophic flooding.

"The water level could rise up to 5 meters," he said.

Citizens living along the Dnipro and Koshova rivers' coastlines are urged to move to safer areas.

Ukraine wants to convene the UN Security Council

"As a result of the National Security and Defense Council meeting on the morning of June 6, a series of actions proposed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba were approved. The plans include Ukraine's call for an urgent UN Security Council meeting and bringing up the issue of the Russian attack at the IAEA's governing council meeting, as well as the activation of the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine stated.

The Ministry calls on the G7 countries and the EU to urgently consider imposing new extensive sanctions on Russia, including on its missile industry and nuclear sector.

IAEA Director General plans to visit Zaporizhzhia NPP

IAEA's Director General, Rafael Grossi, said that if the water level in the reservoir used for cooling the reactors of the Zaporizhzhia NPP falls below 12.7 meters, it would be impossible to continue pumping it in.

"The absence of water to cool the station over an extended period could cause the emergency diesel generators to fail," Grossi said.

According to him, there is no immediate risk to the station's safety. He added that he had planned to visit the Zaporizhzhia NPP next week, but now this trip has become critically important.

Destruction of HPP appears on Google Maps
The signs "Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Station Dam Destroyed" have appeared on Google Maps.

When clicked, an evacuation instruction from Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs and information from the Kherson Regional State Administration about evacuation hotlines are displayed.

Mine risk escalates in Kherson region

Russian minefields have ended up underwater, posing a risk of being washed away by currents.

"The situation might be complicated by the fact that enemy minefields are underwater and can be washed away by water streams," the State Special Transport Service reported.

Given this, local residents in the flood zone are being warned about the increased danger from explosive objects.

Putin accuses Ukraine of "sabotage" at Kakhovka HPP

Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary of the Russian dictator, accused Ukraine of sabotaging the Kakhovka HPP, calling it a "diversion". He claims that Kyiv needed to do this to "deprive Crimea of water" and because the offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is "drowning".

The National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov responded to these allegations, noting that the occupiers are inventing various nonsenses that have no confirmation.

He reminded that the Kakhovka HPP had been entirely under the control of Russian occupiers since March of the previous year.

"I find it hard to understand what this man (Peskov) is talking about. I am used to him trying to justify aggression against our country whenever he starts talking," Danilov said.

Demolition of Kakhovka HPP will not hinder the advance of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

Commander of the Joint Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Serhiy Nayev, said that the military command had anticipated enemy actions in advance, including the sabotage of the dam.

"Regarding obstructing our offensive actions, the military command fully considered such cunning enemy actions, and accordingly, it will not hinder our advance in those directions where there may be water all around," Nayev said.

Media publish satellite images of HPP

The latest satellite images from Planet Labs dated June 6, 2023, show the aftermath of the demolition of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant.

Compared to the image from June 4, it is noticeable that almost the entire HPP structure was destroyed.

Zelenskyy calls HPP explosion Europe's largest man-made environmental disaster

The President addressed participants of the "Bucharest Nine" summit, emphasizing that Russians mined and sabotaged the Kakhovka HPP.

"It is physically impossible to blow it up from the outside, via shelling. It was mined. Mined and detonated by the Russian occupiers," said Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

He pointed out that the dam sabotage is the largest man-made environmental catastrophe in Europe in decades. Therefore, defeating Russia will be the most significant contribution to the security of Europe and the entire world.

Water levels expected to rise within the next 24 hours

According to forecasts by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, water levels due to the explosion at the Kakhovka dam will continue to rise for the next 24 hours, hence, all department units will work round-the-clock.

The head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs also reported:

  • Currently, 24 populated areas in Ukraine are flooded. MIA services have evacuated about a thousand people. Evacuation continues.
  • 150 tons of fuel oil entered the Dnipro due to the destruction of the hydroelectric power station's engine room. Teams with necessary equipment have already set out to mitigate potential environmental disaster consequences.

1300 people have been evacuated

As of 3:00 PM, 24 de-occupied populated areas with over 20,000 residents have been flooded. So far, 1300 residents have been evacuated.

20 populated areas in the uncontrolled territory on the left bank, approximately 25,000 people, are subject to evacuation, but the Russian occupation "authority" is not providing for people's evacuation.

As a reminder, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has previously stated that Russian terrorists mined the dam and equipment of the Kakhovka HPP.

Following this, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of the Presidential Office, noted that Russia might be planning to blow up the Kakhovka HPP dam to slow down the counteroffensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Shortly after this, the head of state declared that blowing up the Kakhovka HPP would be tantamount to Russia declaring war on the entire civilized world.