Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure are aimed at creating a new wave of refugees.
Speaking to the European Council in a video address, Zelensky said after failing to use energy resources as a weapon against Europe, “the current Russian leadership has ordered to turn the energy system itself into a battlefield. The consequences of this are very dangerous, again for all of us in Europe.”
“Attacks by Russian cruise missiles and Iranian attack drones have destroyed more than a third of our energy infrastructure,” he said. “Because of this, unfortunately, we can no longer export electricity to help you maintain stability.”
Days of devastating Russian attacks on energy infrastructure have caused the nation to lose at least 40% of its power-generating capacity. Ukrainian officials warned earlier this week that both emergency and scheduled blackouts would follow.
Zelensky added: “Russia is also provoking a new wave of migration of Ukrainians to the EU countries. Russia’s terror against our energy facilities is aimed at creating as many problems with electricity and heat in Ukraine as possible this autumn and winter and making as many Ukrainians as possible leave for your countries.”
Critical dam mined: Zelensky also claimed that Russia was creating grounds for a large-scale catastrophe in the south of Ukraine, with Russian forces mining a critical dam on the Dnipro river in the southern Kherson region, as well as the adjacent hydroelectric plant.
“We have information that Russian terrorists have mined the dam and units of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant,” Zelensky told the Council of Europe during a video address.
“The dam of this hydroelectric power plant holds about 18 million cubic meters of water.
“If Russian terrorists blow up this dam, more than 80 settlements, including Kherson, will be in the zone of rapid flooding. Hundreds of thousands of people may suffer. Water supply to a large part of southern Ukraine could be destroyed. This Russian terrorist attack could leave Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant without water for cooling – water for ZNPP is taken from the Kakhovka reservoir. “
CNN has reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense for a response to the allegations.
The dam and hydroelectric plant have been working at much-reduced capacity as the area was captured by Russian forces in March. Ukrainian forces are some 40 kilometers (more than 24 miles) north of the dam. Over the past four months, they have launched several strikes against the bridge that forms part of the dam to prevent its use by the Russian military.
Separately, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of the Ukrainian President’s office, said on Twitter Thursday that Russia planned to mine the dam and transformers, forcing the deportation of Ukrainian civilians from Kherson and flooding territory to stop the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the region. The land to the south and east of the river is low-lying.
“Russia is preparing a man-made catastrophe,” Podolyak said.
What pro-Moscow officials are saying: The Russian-appointed head of the Nova Kakhovka administrative district, Vladimir Leontiev, told Russian state media TASS that it makes no sense for Russia to destroy the dam of the power station.
“What is the point for Russia to destroy it now? Even from a formal point of view, this is nonsense. This is absolute nonsense,” Leontiev said.
“First of all, you need to think about who benefits from it: it is only beneficial for Ukraine to destroy the dam, the hydroelectric power station, to disrupt logistics, to sow fear and panic, to stop the possibility of supplying water through the North Crimean Canal to the territory of Crimea,” he said, according to TASS.