Evidence has emerged which strengthens Ukraine’s claim Russia blew up the dam at Nova Kakhovka. The Norwegian seismic monitoring organisation Norsar has said one of its regional stations had detected signs of a blast at the dam. It comes as Kyiv released a recording of what it said pointed to Russian responsibility for the damage.
Seismic centres in Romania detected evidence of an explosion at 2.54am on Tuesday within a radius of less than 20 miles around the dam on the Dnieper River.
The timing coincides with first reports of the dam’s collapse with only a large quantity of explosives capable of producing a signal picked up almost 400 miles away.
Norsar reported weak signals at 2.35am Ukrainian time coming from the direction of Nova Kakhovka.
Ukraine on Friday released a recording of what it says is an intercept of two Russian military men talking about how Moscow was responsible for blowing up the dam.
In the unverified recording posted on Telegram by the SBU, one of the men says a sabotage group from Russia was responsible but the explosion had gone further than planned.
One of the speakers says: “Our saboteur group is there. They wanted to cause fear with this dam. It did not go according to the plan. More than they planned.”
A senior official in US President Joe Biden’s administration, quoted by The New York Times, said the country’s spy satellites detected an explosion at the dam, but analysts still do not know who caused the explosion.
Moscow has accused Kyiv of bombarding the structure, which was under Russia’s control, while Ukraine alleged Russia blew it up from within.
According to local authorities, nine people died were killed in the flooding though this figure could not be verified.
Ukraine has been warning since last October that the hydroelectric dam was mined by Russian forces and accused the Russians of touching off an explosion which has turned downstream areas into a waterlogged wasteland.
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Russia said Ukraine hit the dam with a missile while some experts have said the structure was in disrepair, which could also have led to its collapse.
Ihor Syrota, Director General of the Ukrainian hydroelectric power company Ukrhydroenergo, told the Guardian suggestions the dam might have been destroyed by Ukrainian shelling or structural failure were Russian propaganda.
He said: “The plant was designed to withstand a nuclear strike. To destroy the plant from the outside, at least three aircraft bombs, each of 500kg, would have had to be dropped on the same spot. The station was blown up from the inside.”
He added: “They brought hundreds of kilograms of explosives there. Ukraine reported last year that the station was mined. The Russians were just waiting for the right day to blow it up.”
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The Dnieper River forms part of the front line in the war with many people already fleeing the area because of the fighting.
Ukraine holds the western bank, while Russia controls the low-lying eastern side, which is more vulnerable to flooding.
Some experts have suggested Moscow blew up the dam in order to slow the progress of an expected Ukrainian spring offensive.
Russia said on Monday its forces had thwarted a major offensive at five points along the frontline in Donetsk and killed hundreds of Ukrainian troops. Kyiv denied this and accused Moscow of spreading lies.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced on Friday that it will provide an extra £1.7billion ($2.1bn) in long-term weapons aid for Ukraine.
The new package will include funding for more Patriot missile battery munitions, Hawk air defence systems and missiles as well as small Puma drones, which can be launched by hand.
In a statement, the Pentagon said the package shows the US’s continued commitment “to both Ukraine’s critical near-term capabilities as well as the enduring capacity of Ukraine’s Armed Forces to defend its territory and deter Russian aggression over the long term”.
The aid will also include munitions for laser-guided rockets, an undisclosed amount of artillery rounds as well as funding for training and maintenance support.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Moscow will deploy some of its tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus in July in a move the Belarusian opposition slammed as an attempt to blackmail the West.
Putin said during a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko work on building facilities for the nuclear weapons will be completed by July 7-8 and they will be moved to the territory of Russia’s neighbour and ally quickly after that.
Russia used Belarussian territory to send its troops into Ukraine on February 24 last year and has kept its forces and weapons on its ally’s land since.
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