TechShift in Strategy: Russia Targets Ukrainian Dams and Power Plants

Shift in Strategy: Russia Targets Ukrainian Dams and Power Plants

Dam Blown Up in Nova Kakhovka - 2023
Dam Blown Up in Nova Kakhovka - 2023
Images source: © East News | -

9:09 AM EDT, March 30, 2024

The Institute for the Study of War reports that Russia has begun targeting a new class of objectives in Ukraine, focusing now on hydroelectric power plants and dams. Such attacks could potentially lead to an ecological catastrophe.

In recent times, Russians and Ukrainians have both targeted each other's energy infrastructures. Ukrainians launched attacks on several Russian refineries, prompting the Russians to deploy anti-aircraft defenses at their facilities. This escalation led to the most extensive assault on Ukraine's energy sector in history, causing widespread blackouts and water supply disruptions.

In retaliation, Ukrainians likely used drones to attack the thermal power plant in Novocherkassk in the Rostov region, which led to Russians using Shahed 131/136 drones for their assaults. The Institute for the Study of War, according to a report cited by the Polish Press Agency, mentions that Russians will now focus on hydroelectric plants and dams.

Russians shift their focus

An American think tank remarked on the operations carried out by Russia from March 28 to March 29, 2024. Volodymyr Zelensky reported that these assaults targeted hydroelectric stations in the Cherkasy and Chernivtsi regions. While pro-Kremlin commentators claim that both a thermal power plant and hydroelectric plants were shelled, Ukrenerho, the Ukrainian energy conglomerate, confirmed damage to hydroelectric and thermal power plants in central and western Ukraine.

A "new pattern" of attacks emerges

The ISW suggests that these attacks on Ukrainian hydroelectric stations and dams represent a "new pattern" and signify a "significant escalation" from previous assaults, where such facilities were not systematically targeted.

This strategy aims to weaken the Ukrainian defense industry, which relies heavily on a stable energy sector. The Russians are also exploiting the current deficiencies in Ukraine’s anti-aircraft defense capabilities.

"The United States and European countries remain cautious in supplying Ukraine with potentially significant operational or strategic equipment due to fears of escalation or Russian retaliation," the ISW notes.

"Russia's consistent escalation of unprovoked aggression shows that concerns about Russian escalation or retaliation should not hinder decisions by the USA or other Western countries regarding support for Ukraine," ISW experts argue, as quoted by PAP.

Disaster in Nova Kakhovka

It’s worth remembering that in June 2023, Russia demolished a dam in the Kakhovka Reservoir on the Dnieper River, associated with the construction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Station. The resulting explosion caused a massive flood, with reports of a wave approximately 10 feet high. The incident spurred fears of an ecological disaster as numerous pollutants, including animal carcasses, made their way into the Black Sea. In August 2023, PAP reported the death of about 900 dolphins in the Black Sea, a tragedy partially attributed to the pollution from the Nova Kakhovka dam explosion.

A report by highlighted a sudden decrease in the Odessa Gulf's water salinity and a notable rise in nitrogen concentration, indicating sewage pollution in the Black Sea. This significant change in water salinity has led to the death of marine life, including mussel colonies, fry, and fish eggs, potentially altering the Black Sea's coastal ecosystem over time.

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