Eight high-tech Russian ballistic missiles struck a hydroelectric dam near the southern Ukrainian city Kryvyi Rih, releasing a two-meter flood surge and forcing hundreds of civilians to evacuate their homes, officials said Thursday.
A mix of bomber-launched Iskander and Kinzhal guided missiles, each carrying a half-ton explosive warhead, slammed into Karachun Dam on the Inhulets River early Wednesday evening. The explosions breached the dam releasing a flood of water peaking at 100 cubic meters a second, said Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a city spokesman.
President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a late Wednesday evening national address, switched to Russian to comment defiantly on what he called an intentional Kremlin campaign to destroy civilian infrastructure and provoke humanitarian disaster.
“You are weaklings who fight civilians. Scoundrels who, having escaped from the battlefield, are trying to do harm from somewhere far away. You will remain terrorists of whom your own grandchildren will be ashamed,” Zelensky said.
Video from the scene and eyewitness accounts told of heavy damage to the dam and adjacent pumping station. There were no reports of Ukrainian injuries. One Kinzhal reportedly also part of the missile wave crashed into the shore of a lake in Russia’s Rostov region, injuring five persons among them firemen, the RIA Novosti state-run news agency reported.
Water from the broken dam poured downstream in a flood surge reaching two meters at some locations. Local news reported city streets and the downtown Kryvyi Rih city park under a meter of water, and bridges swept away downstream. Across the city of 650,000, home water taps saw dramatic pressure drops or, often ran dry. Local television news showed long queues of people buying bottled water.
Among the hardest-hit locations outside the city were the downstream bedroom communities Hradnskivka and Matrenivka, where 112 private homes in low-lying ground were inundated. Emergency response teams evacuated hundreds of residents to spend the night in local schools or kindergartens.
Oleksander Vykul, head of the Kryvyi Rih military defense command, in a Thursday morning statement, said that civil defense crews using cranes, bulldozers and shovels worked throughout the night to build breakwaters and repair damage. Trucks with clean water were en route to locations without water service, he said.
The surge had peaked and water levels were now slowly falling, said Valentyn Reznichenko, head of the Dnipro regional defense command, in a Thursday morning statement.
The Wednesday Kryvyi Rih attack followed a missile bombardment of a massive power station in the northern city Kharkiv on Tuesday. Those strikes reportedly left more than one million people without electricity service, some for more than 24 hours, before the grid was brought back fully online.
Kremlin officials and propaganda outlets over the weekend announced Russia’s military would begin systematically targeting Ukrainian civilian infrastructure with the objective of browbeating the Ukrainian population to surrender. The strategy switch followed more than three weeks of stunning Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) battlefield successes, including the wholesale collapse of Russian Federation (RF) defenses in the Kharkiv sector, where Russian troops abandoned more than 600 intact combat vehicles to be captured by the AFU.
Russia’s Joint Forces South on Thursday confirmed both Iskander and Kinzhal missiles had been used in the attack, and claimed legitimate military targets were hit. “As a result of the strike, the hydro-technical facility and the transport infrastructure were damaged,” the statement said.
Patriotic Russian bloggers cheered at the Kryvyi Rih attack. The often-nationalist Starshe Eddy wrote: “Now is exactly the right time to wipe out the maxim(um) amount of infrastructure from Lviv to Kharkiv. Let them (the Ukrainian people) sit in their cities flooded to their knees in sewage.”
Zelensky said that the Kremlin is lashing out at Ukrainian civilians because the Russian army cannot defeat the AFU in battle and because Russia’s leadership knows they eventually will lose the war.
“Events show that the only way out for Russian soldiers is to surrender to Ukrainian forces. Only this guarantees them the preservation of life and attitude in accordance with all conventions. Every Russian soldier should have already understood that only in Ukrainian captivity, no one will use him as cannon fodder in an obviously losing war for Russia,” Zelensky said.
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