In the early hours of June 6, the Russian military blew up the giant Nova Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro with explosives planted underwater on their side of the river. Thereby, Russia’s war on Ukraine has entered a new phase. The Russian aims have gradually moved from conquest to the destruction of Ukraine.

Initially, for the first week of his full-scale invasion, Putin intended to seize the whole of Ukraine and did not want to destroy its infrastructure. The Russian military focused on purely military targets.

Soon, however, it started shooting at everything in the war zones, destroying all they could see. In April, the Russian troops gave up on their original objective, withdrawing from Kyiv, Chernihiv and the rest of Northern Ukraine.


On September 10, the Ukrainian Armed Forces surprised the Russians by swiftly recovering Kharkiv oblast. During that month, Putin limited his endeavors to capture the four regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson. Despite failing to do so, he has insisted on formally incorporating these territories, much of which he does not control, into Russia.

After somebody – it’s unknown who – blew up a chunk of the bridge over the Kerch Strait from Crimea to Russia, Putin got furious.

So, beginning on October 10 Russia went after Ukraine’s crucial infrastructure. It started regularly bombing Ukraine’s power grid. Despite great efforts, Ukraine’s power grid continues to function most of the time with only minor breaks.

Ukraine Says Still Fighting on Dnipro River Left Bank
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Ukraine Says Still Fighting on Dnipro River Left Bank

Ukraine's military spokesman Dmytro Lykhoviy said on state TV that Ukrainian forces are active on the left bank of the Dnipro, with main positions in Krynky heavily damaged by enemy fire.

 Then in January, Russia proceeded to bomb the power plants. Fortunately, Russia did not bomb the nuclear power plants that generate most of Ukraine’s electricity, concentrating on coal-heated power plants. But that did not break Ukraine’s power supply. Ukraine has even restarted electricity export to Europe.

In the last month, Russia has bombed Kyiv more than every second night. Because of the now excellent Ukrainian air defenses, few people are being killed, though some are, and city dwellers can no longer sleep at night. These bombings appear as sadistic nuisances by powerless losers.


By blowing up the important Nova Kakhovka dam, Russia has reached a new stage in its war on Ukraine. To judge from his actions, Putin has given up on trying to seize Ukraine and probably even to hold onto parts of it. Unfortunately, he appears to want to destroy it instead.

In 1991, when the Allies chased Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, he set the Kuwaiti oil wells on fire. We should expect Putin to behave similarly. He has already instigated mass deportations of Ukrainians. Now he is likely to go for general destruction of the country. 

Militarily, Russia blowing up the Nova Kakhovka dam makes little sense. I have visited this area twice, and my memory is that the left, Russian-occupied bank of the Dnipro is lower and would thus be hit the worst by the flooding.

The Russians have built three lines of fortifications and laid plenty of mines there, much of which is likely to be flooded now, which should make it easier for Ukrainian troops to proceed. But tens of thousands of civilian Ukrainians on both sides of the river will have to evacuate, so Ukrainian citizens suffer.


The North Crimean Canal runs from the Kakhovka Reservoir to Crimea. Since 1976, it has delivered 85 percent of the water used in Crimea. Without this water, agriculture in Crimea is no longer sustainable. The dry peninsula is condemned to draught.

By blowing up this dam, Putin appears to have given up on Crimea. He had better evacuate his troops as soon as possible.

While that is all very good, the question arises: What sabotage will the Russians carry out next? We should expect the worst from the bloody-minded Putin. The possibility of the Russians blowing up the Nova Kakhovka dam has been discussed since the spring of 2022.

The same is true of the Russians possibly blowing up the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest nuclear power station in Europe. Most worrisome is that Ukrainian officials have reported that the Russians have already put explosives around all its six reactors in a possible preparation to blow them up and cause a nuclear catastrophe.

This must not happen! The West (that is, the United States) must put its foot down and raise its threats to such a level that it stops the ruthless Putin. The West could do so many things, for example, open the Black Sea to free international navigation. Or bomb Putin in his bed, as he has killed thousands of innocent civilian Ukrainians.


Besides, the West needs to move to asymmetric warfare, hitting where it is strong and Russia weak. Most obviously, the collective West should now seize all Russian Central Bank reserves in the West, allegedly $316 billion according to the Central Bank of Russia.

These funds should be transferred to an escrow account to be used as Russian war reparations to the benefit of Ukraine, just as Iraq was forced to pay $52 billion in war reparations after its assault on Kuwait.

Anders Åslund and Andrius Kubilius have just published the book “Reconstruction, Reform, and EU Accession for Ukraine.”

The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post

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