KIEV – Days after the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) released what it said was an intercepted call in which the Russians admit they were behind the devastating attack.
In an intercepted phone call, two men with Russian accents — identified by the SBU only as two Russian soldiers — talk about how the Russian military wanted to blackmail Ukraine into attacking the dam, but things didn’t go according to plan as the river waters Dnipro has spilled across the region, flooding dozens of settlements and destroying ecosystems.
“It was not the Ukrainians who blew up the dam. It was our sabotage group. They wanted to scare people with this dam [attack]. She didn’t go according to plan » He says one of those identified as a Russian military officer. « This dam was built in the 1950s, so it collapsed quickly. »
During the call, one of those identified as a Russian soldier complained that the authorities installed by Moscow in the occupied part of the Kherson region are trying to play down the catastrophe.
SBU said in a statement that wiretaps confirm that Russian saboteurs blew up the dam.
On Wednesday, locals in the occupied town of Oleshky told POLITICO that Russian forces looked disoriented after the catastrophe, even leaving behind their own soldiers and weapons. However, in the crucial first hours after the attack, the Russians prevented locals from leaving the flooded city, forcing many to sit on rooftops without food and water. At the same time, Russian forces were actively shelling evacuation routes in the Ukrainian-controlled part of the region and in the city of Kherson.
The wiretap results cannot be independently verified, but they fit the findings of an investigation by Ukrainian analyst group Molfar, which said Russia was behind the dam’s destruction.
Kiev says the destruction was caused by explosives the Russians planted inside the dam and Russia’s main objective was to stop a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
After initially denying the destruction, the Kremlin blamed Ukraine, with state-controlled media TASS reporting that the Ukrainian military hit the dam with rocket launchers.
“To blow up the dam you need to drop at least three aerial bombs weighing half a ton at one point. This cannot be done with shots from a single missile. It was a very powerful explosion at three points in the station. When we dismantle our station, we will see, the examination will show, ”Ihor Syrota, the head of the Ukrhydronergo energy company, which manages all hydroelectric power plants in Ukraine, said during a national telethon.
Scientists at NORSAR, a Norwegian-US agency that detects earthquakes and nuclear explosions, reported seismic signals in the area at the same time as the dam collapsed. This indicates that there was an explosion, the seismologists say. US spy satellites also detected an explosion shortly before the dam collapse in the early hours of 6 June The New York Times reported, quoting an unnamed senior US administration official.
By analyzing open-source data, videos from various sources and satellite images, Molfar Analytics concluded that the most likely scenario was Russia 205th motorized rifle brigade behind the explosion at the dam, citing social media posts by the brigade and its affiliates.
On the Telegram channel of the Russian brigade there is a post about the withdrawal of troops from the Russian-controlled part of the Kherson region, noting that the dam was undermined for detonation, Molfar’s analysis said in a report.
The Russian brigade said it « estimated the probability of the Russians blowing the dam at 70 per cent ».
Indeed, in a Telegram post dated October 21, 2022, less than a month before Ukrainian forces liberated Kherson, 205th the brigade said the Kakhovka dam was undermined. That same day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned Western partners that the Russians had undermined the dam.
“There is confirmed information that we have undermined the dam and will blow it up in the event of an uncontrolled enemy advance. Quotation from the operational plan », 205th brigade said in a October statement revealing that the Russians were planning to withdraw to the Kherson region.