Kyiv—The Kakhovka hydroelectric dam in southern Ukraine was partially destroyed on Tuesday, with Moscow and Kyiv accusing each other of being responsible.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday praised his troops for advances claimed near the devastated city of Bakhmut, while Russia said it had repelled a large-scale attack.
The contrasting claims came as Pope Francis’s peace envoy, Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, arrived in Kyiv for two days of talks.
News of rising water levels were noted in several areas near the dam as expectations built over Ukraine’s long-awaited offensive against Russian forces.
“Kakhovka hydroelectric plant. Another war crime committed by Russian terrorists. The president has convened the National Security Council,” the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, wrote on Telegram.
The Kakhovka dam, seized at the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, notably supplies water to the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Moscow in 2014.
“Multiple strikes targeted the Kakhovka dam” overnight in Nova Kakhovka, the head of the city’s Moscow-backed administration, Vladimir Leontiev said, claiming they had destroyed the dam’s gate valves and caused an “uncontrollable” flow of water.
Built on the Dnipro River in 1956, during the Soviet era, the structure is partly made of concrete and partly of earth. It is one of the largest pieces of infrastructure of its kind in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Zelensky said in a video message published on social media: “Well done, warriors! We see how hysterically Russia reacts to any step we take there, all positions we take. The enemy knows that Ukraine will win.”
Earlier, Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar had noted “some success” on the battlefield.
“The Bakhmut sector remains the epicenter of the hostilities. We are advancing there on a rather wide front,” she said.
“The defensive operation includes counteroffensive actions. Therefore, in some sectors, we are conducting offensive actions,” Malyar added.
In May, Russia said it seized the now-destroyed eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, the scene of the longest and one of the bloodiest battles of the war.
Ukraine says it has been preparing a major offensive to recapture territory lost to Russia, but that there would be no announcement about when it would start.
On Sunday, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said words “can only do harm” and posted a cryptic tweet, quoting lyrics from the Depeche Mode song “Enjoy the Silence”.
US President Joe Biden wished Ukraine well on Monday in its expected counteroffensive.
Asked by AFP if he thought the expected Ukrainian pushback would work, the president answered by silently raising his hand and crossing his middle and index fingers. AFP