Zelenskiy asks the West to warn Russia not to blow up the dam
- Dam explosion could flood southern Ukraine
- Ukrainian forces advance near the dam on the west bank of the Dnipro
- Washington says Iranian troops flew drones in attacks on Ukraine
BASHTANKA, Ukraine, Oct 21 (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called on the West to warn Russia not to blow up a huge dam that would flood part of southern Ukraine, as his forces prepare to push back Muscovite troops from Kherson in one of the most important battles of the war.
In a televised address, Zelenskiy said Russian forces had placed explosives inside the huge Nova Kakhovka dam, which holds back a huge reservoir that dominates much of southern Ukraine, and planned to detonate it. blow up to cover their retreat.
“Now everyone in the world must act strongly and quickly to prevent another Russian terrorist attack. To destroy the dam would mean a full-scale disaster,” he said.
Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Russia accused Kyiv earlier this week of planning to blow up the dam. Sergei Surovikin, the commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, said Ukrainian forces had previously used US-supplied HIMARS missiles against it, which Ukrainian officials said was a sign that Moscow might consider detonating it and to blame Kyiv.
Neither side has produced any evidence to support their claims.
The vast Dnipro bisects Ukraine and is several kilometers wide in places. The bursting of the dam could send a wall of water flooding settlements below, including much of the city of Kherson, which Ukrainian forces hope to retake in a major advance.
Damage to the dam would also destroy the canal system that irrigates southern Ukraine, including Crimea, which Moscow seized in 2014.
Zelenskiy called on world leaders to clarify that blowing up the dam would be treated “in exactly the same way as the use of weapons of mass destruction”, with consequences similar to those threatened if Russia uses nuclear weapons or chemicals.
One of the most important battles of the eight-month war comes to an end near the dam as Ukrainian forces advance along the west bank of the river, aiming to retake the city of Kherson and surround thousands of troops Russians.
Ukraine has imposed an information blackout from the Kherson front, but Russian commander Surovikin said this week that the situation in Kherson was “already difficult” and that Russia was “not ruling out tough decisions ” the low.
On Friday, the Kremlin dodged the question of whether or not President Vladimir Putin had ordered Russian forces to withdraw from Kherson, referring the matter to the Defense Ministry.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff said up to 2,000 newly mobilized Russians had arrived in the area “to replenish casualties and reinforce units on the line of contact”.
Russian-installed occupation officials have begun what they say is the evacuation of tens of thousands of civilians across the river from west bank towns. They accused Kyiv of bombing a ferry, killing at least four civilians. Ukraine has acknowledged an attack, but said it came after a civilian curfew.
On the Ukrainian side, the town of Bashtanka, about 40 km (25 miles) from the Kherson front, was bustling with Ukrainian troops, many buying winter gear from outside stalls and a shop selling clothes and military equipment. The city bore the scars of Russian bombardment which left some buildings in the center gutted or damaged.
As Russian forces have suffered setbacks on the battlefield since September, Putin has escalated the war. Last month, he ordered the recall of hundreds of thousands of reservists, announced the annexation of Russian-occupied territory and repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons to protect Russia.
This month it launched a campaign of attacks using Iranian cruise missiles and drones to cut off Ukraine’s power supply before winter. Kyiv and the West say this amounts to deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure and a war crime.
Since Thursday, Ukrainians have experienced calls across the country to reduce electricity consumption and some power cuts, which authorities say are needed to repair power plants damaged in the attacks.
The United States said Thursday that Iranian troops were in Crimea and helped fly the drones to attack Ukraine.
“We can confirm that Russian military personnel based in Crimea have piloted Iranian drones and used them to conduct kinetic strikes across Ukraine, including strikes against Kyiv in recent days,” the spokesman said. US State Department Ned Price at a press briefing.
Iran has denied supplying the drones, as has Moscow, although many have been shot down and recovered, making it clear where they came from.
“Iran and Russia, they can lie to the world, but they certainly can’t hide the facts, and the fact is this: Tehran is now directly engaged on the ground,” the security spokesman said. White House national, John Kirby.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter that he had detailed discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid over a request for air and missile defense systems and technologies. Lapid’s office said the Israeli leader had expressed “deep concern” about the military connection between Iran and Russia.
Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reporting from Reuters offices Writing by Peter Graff Editing by Philippa Fletcher
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.