What really happened to the Kakhovka dam in Ukraine?
Anyone who follows the Ukraine war closely, like I do, probably noted the confusion from media coverage over the tragic destruction of the massive Kakhovka dam in Ukraine.
According to commentators on “Ukraine: The Latest,” a fascinating daily podcast by the UK’s Telegraph newspaper, the blame was all on Vladimir Putin. But switching over to the UK’s The Guardian podcast – its defence analysists were much more unsure, suggesting it could have been Russian blunder – not intentional.
Here in Canada, Scott Taylor of Esprit de Corps magazine looked more closely at the dam’s collapse and the media spin surrounding it.
“It is a battle of information ‘absolutes’ wherein western media portray anything Ukrainian as infallible, and the invading Russian troops as being incompetent and incapable,” writes Taylor.
“For instance, on June 6, when the Kakhovka dam was breached on the Dnipro river, there was never any doubt that the Russians were responsible. Russian troops controlled the dam at the time of the explosion, case closed.”
Justin Trudeau told Canadians as much, too. “Russia is responsible and will be held accountable,” said the prime minister.
But Taylor says that from a military standpoint, the story does not make sense because Russia was impacted the worst from the dam’s collapse and subsequent flooding.
“The problem for the pundits was the fact that short of blundering incompetence or a tragic accident, it made no real sense for Russia to destroy the dam,” says Taylor.
According to a study conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War that it was Russian defensive positions on the east bank of the Dnipro river that suffered the most damage as a result of the flood, points out Taylor.
In terms of the Russian defensive positions the ISW reported, “The flooding has destroyed many Russian first line field fortifications that the Russians intended to use to defend against Ukrainian attacks.”
From the outset, Ukrainian officials noted that the flood had washed landmines downriver creating a dangerous hazard to relief workers. According to the ISW, most of those landmines were part of the defensive works constructed by the Russian army.
Taylor says that the dam collapse story is emblematic of the black-and-white approach to media coverage of the war, which will cloud everyone’s judgement over prospects for an end to the war in Ukraine.
- Read “On target: is ‘total victory’ possible for Ukraine?,” by Scott Taylor, published by Esprit de Cops magazine on June 19, 2023
(Cover: KHERSON, UKRAINE – Jun. 12, 2023: Volunteers actively helping to rescue local residents. Via Shutterstock)