Did Putin’s dambusters ‘deliberately destroy’ the Nova Kakhovka dam in retaliation over Kherson?
Satellite images have emerged showing damage to a former Russian-held dam near Kherson as Putin‘s troops left a trail of destruction as they retreated from the city.
Sections of the Nova Kakhovka dam, which stands on the Dnipro River and holds back ‘millions of tonnes’ of water, seem to have been ‘deliberately destroyed’, according to a satellite imaging company.
Pictures released by Maxar Technologies appear to show damage to sections of the northern part of the dam and sluice gates at the hydroelectric power plant, although it is unclear how and by who the damage was caused.
Pictures released by Maxar Technologies appear to show damage to sections of the northern part of the dam and sluice gates
This satellite image released and collected by Maxar Technologies on November 11 shows an overview of damaged Antonovskiy bridge in Kherson
A satellite image shows destroyed Darivka bridge in Kherson. Images which have emerged show significant damage to several bridges following the hasty withdrawal of Putin’s forces
Seized by Russia at the beginning of the war, the Kakhovka dam provides one of the last remaining routes over the Dnipro river in the region
The Nova Kakhovka dam’s strategic importance
The dam, which is 30 metres tall and 3.2 km long, was built in 1956 on the Dnipro river as part of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant.
It holds an 18 km3 reservoir which, the volume of water in which is about equal to the Great Salt Lake in the U.S. state of Utah.
Seized by Russia at the beginning of the war, the Kakhovka dam provides one of the last remaining routes over the Dnipro river in the region.
It supplies water to the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014, and to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.
Moscow and Kyiv have exchanged allegations regarding damage done, or expected to be done, to the dam.
Ukraine has said that Russia has mined the dam while Sergei Surovikin, the commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, previously said Kyiv planned to undertake missile strikes on it.
Ukrainian officials said the allegation was a sign that Moscow planned to attack the dam and blame Kyiv.
Analysts from the Institute for the Study of War concluded in late October that such a ‘false-flag attack’ could work to cover Russia’s retreat from Kherson and act as a distraction from its latest battlefield humiliation.
President Zelensky previously said that by blowing the dam, Moscow would be destroying the water supply to Crimea and thus show that Russia had accepted that it could not hold onto the peninsula.
The dam was built in 1956 on the Dnipro river as part of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant
Russia and Ukraine have repeatedly accused each other of plotting to breach the dam, with Moscow blaming Ukraine for damage to it caused by shelling earlier this month, despite providing no evidence to back these claims.
Two weeks ago, Kremlin propaganda printed threats to mine the area and unleash a ‘grandiose water apocalypse’ to stop Ukraine’s own counter-offensive.
This prompted the head of the Ukrainian presidential office Andriy Yermak to accuse Moscow of resorting to new scare tactics after failing with its ‘nuclear blackmail’.
Bursting the Soviet-era the dam could cause severe destruction to Kherson city, which Russia declared it had withdrawn from this morning, and put hundreds of thousands of people living downstream at risk of flooding.
Further images which have emerged show significant damage to several bridges following the hasty withdrawal of Putin’s forces from Kherson to the East bank of the Dnipro river.
‘Satellite images this morning… reveal significant new damage to several bridges and the Nova Kakhovka dam in the aftermath of the Russian retreat from Kherson across the Dnipro river,’ Maxar said in a statement.
President Zelensky today declared that Kherson is back in Ukrainian hands following Russia‘s retreat from the city – the only regional capital Putin‘s forces had taken since the invasion began.
Jubilant locals wept as they kissed and embraced the first Ukrainian soldiers to arrive in the centre of the Black Sea port, the first major urban hub that fell to Russia.
‘Our people. Ours. Kherson,’ Zelensky wrote on Telegram today as footage showed Ukrainian troops gathering with residents of the city to celebrate the landmark victory.
In an address to the Ukrainian people, the President said: ‘today is a historic day, we are returning the south of our country, returning Kherson.’
He praised the strength and spirit of the people of Kherson, who he said ‘believed in Ukraine’ despite the ‘threats, repression and abuse of the occupiers’.
The southern city was liberated today after nine months under Russian occupation in what has been a major blow for the Kremlin.
Ukrainian soldiers were treated to a hero’s welcome by jubilant crowds as they arrived in the city centre throughout the day, with celebrations going on into the night.
An emotional video appears to show locals hoisting a Ukrainian flag on a monument in the city as they support one another and sing together.
Earlier in the day, young men were filmed victoriously cheering as they raised a flag in the city’s Freedom Square.
A woman holds up a slogan which reads ’11/11/2022 Kherson Ukraine’ in Maidan Square, Kyiv, to celebrate the city’s liberation
A little girl waves a flag after President Volodymyr Zelensky declared that the city of Kherson is back in Ukrainian hands on Friday
People have gathered in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Friday night to celebrate the liberation of Kherson after Russia announced the completion of its withdrawal from the southern port city
Celebrations in the capital Kyiv have seen crowds gathering, waving flags and chanting of support for the Ukrainian military
Flag-waving locals wept, chanted the name of the Ukrainian armed forces, hugged and kissed troops as they arrived in the city’s main square hours after the bulk of Moscow’s forces fled back across the Dnipro River.
Ukraine’s artillery had pounded river crossings overnight and into the early hours in the hopes of destroying any last Russians trying to flee.
Local residents cheer and wave a Ukrainian flag on top of a statue at Freedom Square in Kherson following the withdrawal of Russian troops from the regional capital
While Russia said it had withdrawn 30,000 troops across the Dnipro River without losing a single soldier, Ukrainians have described a chaotic retreat and pro-Russian war bloggers have described them coming under heavy fire.
Serhii Khlan, the deputy head of Kherson’s regional council, disputed the claim that retreating forces took all their equipment with them, saying he was told ‘a lot’ of hardware got left behind.
Satellite images show the only road route near Kherson across the river, the already damaged Antonivskiy bridge, collapsed, with Russian military bloggers saying it was probably blown up as Russian troops withdrew.
Local reports suggested that Russian troops had been forced to retreat via a makeshift bridge nearby.
A large number of Russian soldiers drowned in the river as they tried to escape and others had changed into civilian clothing, Khlan said.
Council member Khlan earlier advised Kherson residents not to leave their homes while searches for remaining Russian troops took place.
Ukraine’s defence intelligence agency said Kherson was being restored to Ukrainian control and ordered any remaining Russian troops to surrender to Kyiv’s forces entering the city.
Rumours swirled that thousands of troops might still be trapped in the city, but as the day wore on those hopes seemed to be ill-founded.
Fears that Russia could be laying some kind of trap also failed to materialise, perhaps suggesting a disinformation campaign to delay the Ukrainian advance long enough for soldiers to get out.
The withdrawal, in the face of an intense Ukrainian counter-offensive, marks Russia’s third major retreat of the war.
As the news settles in of the city’s recapture, Ukrainians have been celebrating across the embattled country.
Scenes of jubilation in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv tonight. President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Kherson was ‘ours’ after Russia announced the completion of its withdrawal from the regional capital
People gathered tonight in Maidan Square, Kyiv to celebrate the liberation of Kherson, after Russian troops withdrew
Scenes of celebration in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv tonight. President Volodymyr Zelensky declared that Kherson was ‘ours’ after Russia announced the completion of its withdrawal from the regional capital
Videos out of Kherson appear to show locals partying in the streets tonight as they enjoy their first taste of freedom from the Russian occupiers since March.
Amid the celebrations, Mr Khlan said the humanitarian situation there is dire as the occupiers had destroyed key infrastructure. ‘The situation with fuel is difficult and there has been no electricity for a week,’ he said. Temperatures hit 3C (37F) yesterday, with freezing weather expected to arrive next week.
Nevertheless, victory parades started to break out after it had become clear that Russia no longer controlled the city.
‘Glory to Ukraine! Glory to Heroes,’ shouted one man in a video circulating on social media, a slogan first used by the country’s military as a greeting during Ukraine’s 1917-1921 war of independence.
A man waves a flag after President Volodymyr Zelensky declared that the city of Kherson is back in Ukrainian hands on Friday
A child holds a Ukranian flag as people gather in Maidan square, Kyiv, to celebrate the liberation of Kherson
Ukrainian civilians cheer, chant, cry and kiss as they welcome troops to the centre of Kherson, with Kyiv’s military intelligence saying the city is now under their full control
Iryna Osadcha, a 30-year-old Kherson resident, said that she sobbed as she saw Ukrainian soldiers entering the city. ‘My emotions cannot be described in words,’ she told the Mail. ‘I want to thank Britain and the whole world for their help and faith in us.’
Dasha Zarivna, a senior Ukrainian presidential adviser who was born and raised in Kherson, said she was ‘extremely emotional to see Ukrainian flags flying over its city centre again’.
‘This war is only going one way,’ Miss Zarivna said. ‘The Russian armed forces and public in general can see this is becoming a historic humiliation. Hopefully the retreat from Kherson will force wiser heads in the Kremlin to seek a pragmatic way out of this disaster that they have got themselves into.’
Celebrations in the capital Kyiv tonight have seen crowds gathering in Maidan Square, or ‘Independence Square’, waving flags and chanting of support for the military.
Kherson was the first major city to fall to Russia’s troops and the only regional capital they have captured – spending eight months under occupation before being liberated today
The Ukrainian flag was flying over Kherson city centre today as locals began gathering to welcome Kyiv’s troops after Russia said it had completed its withdrawal in the early hours
A young girl carrying the national banner was pictured in the centre of Kherson, as Russia left the city eight months after capturing it during the early weeks of the war
Ukrainian troops were pictured in the outskirts of the city being greeted by jubilant locals, as officials said the entire city is almost under Kyiv’s control
Ukrainians gather on the streets of Kherson to await Ukrainian troops who are now moving through the city after Russia completed its retreat in the early hours
Ukrainian rocket artillery unloads on Russian positions near the city of Kherson as Putin’s commanders attempt to get their men out of the city using only pontoons and small boats
Russia is facing potentially ‘huge losses’ in Kherson, an expert has warned, with up to 20,000 men surrounded while Ukraine shells the city heavily (left and right) and advances along multiple routes
The Antonovskiy Bridge, which is the main route out of Kherson, appears to have been completely destroyed overnight
Ukraine had warned that Russia could be laying a trap for its forces in Kherson, but pressed ahead rapidly with an attack overnight and is now thought to have all-but surrounded the city
A Ukrainian serviceman fires a ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft automatic cannon at a frontline in the Kharkiv region today
Ukrainian troops have begun advancing into the area around Kherson city evacuated by Russia mid fears Moscow’s men may be laying a trap for them, uncovering destroyed vehicles along their way (left and right)
A Russian military vehicle painted with war symbols is seen (left) as Ukrainian troops advance into areas previously held by Moscow’s troops, as they appear to withdraw from the region
Kyiv’s men are shown liberating the village of Snihurivka, around 30 miles north of Kherson, today after Russian forces began retreating from their positions back across the Dnipro River
A Ukrainian soldier based in Kherson takes part in a training exercise as Kyiv’s men get ready to advance into the region that Russia has said it is evacuating, amid fears the ‘retreat’ is actually a trap
Ukrainian soldiers from the 63 brigade train for trench warfare in the northern Kherson region, as they prepare to advance towards the regional capital in the south after Russia said it was evacuating
A Ukrainian tank advances towards the front line in Kherson after Russian commanders said they would be withdrawing, giving up the only regional capital they have taken since the February invasion
A Ukrainian gunner loads high-calibre rounds into the main gun mounted on top of his tank as he prepared to advance in the Kherson region after Russia said it was retreating
Videos earlier today showed the last of Moscow’s troops crossing the Dnipro as the sun rose, before they blew up the main bridge crossing to stop anyone following.
Putin ‘has been offered surrender terms by the West’ as he loses control of Kherson – and ‘his cronies have reacted positively because it allows them to stay in power and avoid criminal charges’
Vladimir Putin has been offered surrender terms by the West, a respected Russian policy expert revealed today, as Moscow’s troops were forced to withdraw from the city of Kherson in yet another humiliating defeat.
Professor Valery Solovey, formerly at Moscow’s prestigious Institute of International Relations and who claims to have connections in the Kremlin, said the surrender would see Russia give up all territory in Ukraine with the exception of Crimea, which would become a demilitarised zone and its status would not be discussed again until 2029.
In return, Putin and his cronies would avoid criminal charges over the war and be allowed to remain in power, Professor Solovey claimed.
He said the proposal had been discussed between Kyiv and its Western allies before being presented to Putin’s inner circle – who had reacted positively to the idea.
Russia has been calling for a return to the negotiating table in recent days while there have been suggestions that Washington is quietly leaning on Kyiv to do the same.
General Mark Milley, head of the US general staff, said this week that a winter lull in fighting presents an ‘opportunity’ for talks.
President Zelensky has previously vowed never to negotiate with Russia so long as Putin remains in power.
The news emerged as Ukraine today liberated Kherson after eight months of Russian occupation, with troops greeted as heroes after the last of Putin’s forces fled. Weeping locals sang, danced, hugged, kissed and chanted victory slogans as Kyiv’s soldiers arrived to take back the city – with parties going on into the night.
Russia claimed it had completed the retreat across the Dnipro River without losing a single soldier, but Ukrainians painted a picture of a chaotic retreat, with soldiers ditching their uniforms or drowning while trying to escape.
Solovey said the exact terms of the deal would mean Russia giving up any claim to the rest of the Kherson region, along with Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk – including areas occupied since 2014. Crimea would remain a part of Russia but would be forced to demilitarize, with the Black Sea Fleet relocated.
A 60mile-wide demilitarized zone would be created along the borders between Belarus, Russia and Ukraine with no heavy weapons allowed inside the zone. Russia would also have to give up its military presence in the Transnistria region of Moldova, while Ukraine would pledge not to join NATO for at least seven years.
Six countries have agreed to provide security guarantees underwriting the deal, Solovey claimed, though he did not name them. Guarantees would likely include a pact to come to Ukraine’s defence if it were attacked again, and guarantors would likely include Kyiv’s closest allies – the US and UK among them.
‘If the president declines these conditions which the Russian establishment is ready to accept… then military actions continue,’ said Solovey.
‘If massive rocket attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, first of all, power stations, resume, this means that the president does not accept these conditions,’ he said.
‘If there is no bombing, it does not necessarily mean readiness to accept [the offer to surrender]. It means that the contemplation continues, and an attempt is being made to get some extra time to assess the situation.’
News of a potential Russian surrender comes as Putin’s army faces a dire situation on the battlefields of Ukraine.
Having been forced to retreat from Kyiv and Kharkiv, Russia’s troops today withdrew from Kherson in the south: The only regional capital gained since the start of the war and capital of a region Putin declared to be part of Russia just a few weeks ago.
Moscow’s troops are struggling to make any progress in Donbas despite heavy fighting in recent weeks, with the frontline having remained largely static since late July. Russia did attempt a major attack near a town called Pavlivka, in Donetsk, last week but it ended in disaster amid reports of more than 300 marines killed.
Meanwhile Ukraine continues advancing in northern Luhansk where it is now bearing down on the cities of Svatove and Kreminna – strategic waypoints on the way to Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, two cities that Russia spent huge amount of time, effort and blood capturing over the summer.
Losing Kherson means any Russian assault on Odesa is now all-but impossible. It also means that Ukraine can now strike parts of Crimea – the crown jewel of his last invasion, in 2014 – with long-range artillery. Kyiv has already said it plans to take the peninsula back.
‘Kherson returns under control of Ukraine,’ Kyiv’s military intelligence directorate said on Friday afternoon, telling any Russian troops left in the city to give themselves up immediately or risk being destroyed.
The loss of Kherson represents a major defeat for Putin and his armed forces. It was the sole regional capital captured by his army since the invasion began, and sits in a region he declared to be part of Russia just a few weeks ago.
Losing Kherson means any Russian assault on Odesa is now all-but impossible. It also means that Ukraine can now strike parts of Crimea – the crown jewel of Russia’s last invasion, in 2014 – with long-range artillery. Kyiv has already said it plans to take the peninsula back.
Russia is now thought to have taken up defensive positions on the eastern bank of the Dnipro comprising three lines made up of trenches and canals, covered by artillery and backed by reinforcements from Crimea.
Western officials briefing journalists last week said they do not expect Ukraine to begin an offensive across the Dnipro any time soon.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted today that Kherson remains part of Russia’s territory – despite Moscow’s troops fleeing from it.
‘This is a subject of the Russian Federation. There are no changes in this and there cannot be changes,’ Peskov said, insisting that Putin had ‘no regrets’ about annexing it.
However, Western military and diplomatic sources cautioned that the Russian military move did not mean all was said and done – even if it was a major victory for Ukraine.
‘It’s definitely a turning point, but it doesn’t mean that Russia has lost or that Ukraine has won,’ said Ben Barry, a senior fellow for land warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.
‘Russia was still capable of a new offensive or counterattacks. It is far too soon to write them off,’ Barry said.
Ukrainian forces have liberated 41 settlements as they advanced through the south, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his Thursday evening video address.
Sappers and pyrotechnicians were going into areas retaken from Russian forces to rid them of thousands of unexploded landmines and ordnance they left behind, he said.
About 170,000 square kilometres (66,000 square miles) remained to be de-mined, Zelensky said, including in places where there was still fighting and ‘where the enemy will add landmines before its withdrawal, as is the case now with Kherson.’
The region’s Ukrainian-appointed governor, Yaroslav Yanushevych, writing on the Telegram messaging app, said Russian troops had ‘taken away public equipment, damaged power lines and wanted to leave a trap behind them’.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskiy, said Russia wanted to turn Kherson into a ‘city of death’, mining everything from apartments to sewers and planning to shell the city from the other side of the river.
A small group of Ukrainian soldiers was shown on Ukraine’s state TV being greeted by joyous residents in the centre of the village of Snihurivka, around 55 km (35 miles) north of Kherson city, with a Ukrainian flag fluttering above the square behind them. Reuters verified the location of the video.
A few kilometres away, in a devastated frontline village reached by Reuters in an area already held by Ukrainian forces, the guns had fallen silent for what residents said was the first quiet night since the war began.
‘We hope the silence means the Russians are leaving,’ said Nadiia Nizarenko, 85. The Russians could be preparing a trap, said Nizarenko’s daughter, Svitlana Lischeniuk, 63.
Still, there was joy. Petro Lupan, a volunteer distributing bread to residents, said he could not find words to express his feelings after he learned of the recapture of Snihurivka.
In the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, 54-year-old Larysa, who had recently fled Kherson to reach Ukrainian-held territory, said she could not reach family in the area.
‘We tried contacting them… but there was no connection. We don’t even know… the fate of our relatives.’
‘We’ve lived in the occupied territories for eight months. The situation there is difficult, especially psychologically. Our village is full of armed Russian soldiers… It is a miracle that we got out… There were tears of happiness when I saw our Ukrainian flag and our soldiers.’
Russian state media and pro-Kremlin war hawks defended the withdrawal from Kherson as a necessary move while acknowledging a heavy blow.
The retreat would leave Moscow with only limited gains to show for a ‘special military operation’ that made it a pariah in the West and, according to a U.S. estimate, has killed or wounded some 100,000 Russian soldiers.
Facing losses on the battlefield, Moscow has opened up the possibility of peace negotiations with Kyiv – something the US is said to be quietly pressing for behind the scenes.
American diplomats were said to view the expected slow-down of fighting between the two sides over winter as an opportunity to open up discussions, NBC reported yesterday.
General Mark Milley, chief of the generals staff, backed the idea – saying winter will provide ‘a window of opportunity for negotiation’ provided both sides can agree that victory is not possible by military means.
A woman is comforted by servicemen as she cries at the scene of night shelling in Mykolaiv, Ukraine
Ukrainian Emergency Service rescuers carry the body of a victim found under rubble at the scene of shelling in Mykolaiv
Police inspect a dead body at the scene of night shelling in Mykolaiv,
Ukrainian Emergency Service rescuers work at the scene of a building damaged by night shelling in Mykolaiv
Rescuers work at a site of a residential building heavily damaged by a Russian missile attack in Mykolaiv
However, a conflicting report in the New York Times said that European officials were briefing that serious negotiations between the two sides are ‘unlikely in the near future.’
President Zelensky, speaking last night, said the onus is on the Russian side to prove they are genuine about negotiations and he sees ‘no desire’ in Putin to end the fighting.
‘When Russia truly wants peace, we will definitely feel it and see it,’ he said.
‘But you can’t wish for peace with words alone – words are not enough. Stop the war, withdraw from our territory, stop killing people, start reimbursing the damages inflicted on our country. Criminals must be prosecuted. Words are not enough.’
Zelensky said after the annexation of four partially occupied regions of Ukraine to Russia that he will never negotiate with Putin, and will instead hold talks with ‘the next Russian leader’.
He reiterated that determination last night, saying that Putin has done nothing but issue ultimatums to Ukraine since the start of the war – and shows no sign of changing his stance.
Zelensky added: ‘It is only the Kremlin and only one person – the head of the Russian Federation – who is not tired of the war. [Putin] might be tired of life in principle, because of his age, but he is definitely not tired of the war.’