Russian troops guard an entrance of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Station, a run-of-the-river power plant on the Dnieper River in Kherson region, southern Ukraine, May 20, 2022. (AP Photo)
Russian state media on Sunday claimed Ukraine struck a dam near the strategic city of Kherson with U.S.-made missiles, citing officials in the region.
Ukraine has not yet commented on the reports, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky previously accused Moscow of planting mines at the dam for a potential “false flag” attack that Moscow would blame on Ukraine.
RIA Novosti and other state media said Ukrainian troops in the purported attack used six high-mobility artillery rocket systems, a key system the U.S. has supplied to Kyiv as they fight against Russia’s invasion, including one rocket that damaged the dam lock.
“The Armed Forces of Ukraine are not abandoning their attempts to destroy the dam of the Kakhovskaya hydroelectric power station and create the prerequisites for a humanitarian catastrophe,” regional authorities told RIA Novosti.
Zelensky and Russian officials have previously suggested an explosion at the dam, which is located on the Dnieper River, could cause flooding downstream, including in Kherson.
“The dam of this hydroelectric power plant holds about 18 million cubic meters of water,” Zelensky said last month. “If Russian terrorists blow up this dam, more than 80 settlements, including Kherson, will be in the zone of rapid flooding. Hundreds, hundreds of thousands of people may be affected.”
In the early days of its invasion, Russia quickly captured Kherson, which is crucial to Moscow’s aspirations of advancing further west toward the major port in Odesa. It remains the only regional capital Russia has controlled.
Ukrainian forces have been making piecemeal gains in the region as part of a sweeping autumn counteroffensive that included major territorial advances in the northeast.
Russian forces in recent days have moved some troops and equipment across the Dnieper River and out of Kherson, but Ukrainian officials suspect Russia may be setting a trap, creating the illusion of surrender while simultaneously ramping up reinforcements for a major battle to come.
Ukraine’s defense ministry over the weekend accused Russia of destroying “en masse” private boats located on the banks of the Dnieper River in the region.