Images taken from above the Kakhovka Dam in the days before it was destroyed have shown a car purportedly laden with explosives atop the structure, in what appears to lend weight to the widely-held suspicion that Russia is responsible for blowing it up and causing an ecological catastrophe.
Russian forces were in control of the dam when it exploded, as it is located within the occupied territories, and experts have suggested it is not credible that Ukrainian commandos could have sneaked in thousands of pounds of explosives to blow the dam while Putin’s forces were stationed on either side.
Two officials, Ukrainian and American, have also said Russian troops were stationed in a crucial area inside the dam where it is believed the explosion that destroyed it was centred.
As recently as the day before the structure’s June 6 collapse, Russians had set up a firing position inside the dam’s crucial machine room, where Ukrhydroenergo, the agency that runs the dam system, said the explosion originated.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had alleged as early as October 2022 that the dam was mined.
Illia Zelinskyi, commander of Bugskiy Gard and who was in the nearby area at the time of the explosion, confirmed that the explosion seemed to come from the area where the machine room is located.
He said that mining before a retreat was “regular practice” and suggested Russian forces had attempted to “some of our supply chains as well as complicate a crossing of the Dnieper for us” ahead of the beginning of the Ukrainian counter offensive.
It is believed that Ukraine does not have a missile with a significant enough payload to destroy the dam without blowing it from the inside, making it more plausible that Russia was responsible.
Zelinskyi and an American official familiar with the intelligence both confirmed that Russian forces had been ensconced there for some time. The American spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive material.
In the days leading up to the single explosion, Ukrainian military drone videos showed dozens of Russian soldiers encamped on a bank of the Dnipro, relaxed as they walked back and forth to the dam with no cover.
This suggested their confidence in their control of the area and especially the dam, which was strategically crucial.
Photos taken from Ukrainian drone footage, obtained by the AP and dated May 28, also showed a car parked on the dam, its roof neatly cut open to reveal enormous barrels, one with what appears to be a land mine attached to the lid and a cable running toward the Russian-held side of the river. It’s not clear how long the car remained.
A Ukrainian special forces communications official, who also noted the car appeared to be rigged, said he believed the purpose of that was twofold: to stop any Ukrainian advance on the dam and to amplify the planned explosion originating in the machine room and destroy the top of the dam.
The car bomb itself would not have been enough to bring down the dam. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to preserve operational secrecy.
The explosion, detected at 2.54am local time, registered on Norwegian seismic monitors at nearly magnitude 2. By comparison, a catastrophic explosion at Beirut’s port that killed scores of people and caused widespread destruction registered at a 3.3 on the seismic scale and involved at least 500 tons of explosives.
At least 52 people have died as a result of the flooding caused by the Kakhovka dam’s breach on June 6, according to death tolls from the Ukrainian and Russian authorities.
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