Ukraine on Sunday appeared to be embarking on a long-expected counteroffensive against Russian troops, and its officials said Moscow blew up dams to hinder their advance by causing flooding and erasing the only remaining river between the enemies. However, it is not clear whether the Ukrainian plans call for a major crossing of the lower Dnipro.
Ukrainians question why they want to destroy their own infrastructure, cities and farms, noting that they have often been targeted in Russia’s brutal wars. Moscow wants to “show that it is ready to do anything” if Kyiv aggressively counterattacks, said Roman Kostenko, chair of the defense and intelligence committee in Ukraine’s Parliament. “They did everything to stop our counter-attacks.”
Mr Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, claimed that Ukraine had demolished a dam to cut off the flow of water through the canal from the Dnipro to the Crimean Peninsula. After Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, Ukraine stopped the flow, but Russia restarted last year after seizing the dam.
Other Russian officials claimed the attack was intended to support a Ukrainian offensive they said was grumbling – perhaps to allow Kyiv to reposition some troops, or for flood waters to push back Russian artillery near the river.
Some Western military analysts make a note of caution about trying to quickly blame, or even about saying whether the dam collapsed on purpose.
“It’s too early to tell,” said Michael Kofman, director of Russia studies at CNA, a research institute in Arlington, Virginia. The disaster, he said, “in the end benefited no one.”
Reporting contributed by Riley Mellen, Haley Willis, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Paul Sonne, Andrew E. Kramer, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Eric Schmitt And Victoria Kim.