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 conference, Zelensky said that after not using energy resources as a weapon against Europe, “the current Russian leadership has given orders to turn the energy system itself into a battlefield. The consequences of this are very dangerous, once again for all of us in Europe.”
“Russian cruise missile and Iranian attack drone attacks have destroyed more than a third of our energy infrastructure,” he said. “This is why, unfortunately, we can no longer export electricity to help maintain stability.”
Days of horrific Russian attacks on energy infrastructure have caused the nation to lose at least 40% of its energy generating capacity. Ukrainian officials warned earlier this week that emergency and scheduled blackouts would continue.
Zelensky added: “Russia is also causing a new wave of migration of Ukrainians to EU countries. Russia’s terror against our energy facilities is aimed at creating as many problems as possible with electricity and heat in Ukraine this fall and winter, and for as many Ukrainians as possible to go to your countries.’
Exploited critical dam: Zelensky also said Russia was laying the groundwork for a large-scale disaster in southern Ukraine, with Russian forces exploiting a critical dam on the Dnipro River in the southern Kherson region, as well as a nearby hydroelectric plant.
“We have information that Russian terrorists exploited the dam and units of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant,” Zelensky told the European Council in a video conference.
“The dam of this hydroelectric plant has 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. The water supply for a large part of southern Ukraine could be destroyed. This Russian terrorist attack could leave the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant without cooling water – water for the ZNPP is taken from the Kakhovka reservoir. ”
CNN has reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense to respond to the allegations.
The dam and hydroelectric plant have been severely curtailed since Russian forces took over the area in March. Ukrainian forces are about 40 kilometers (more than 24 miles) from the dam. In the last four months, they have carried out several strikes against the bridge that forms the dam, to prevent the Russian army from using it.
Separately, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser in the Ukrainian president’s office, said on Twitter on Thursday that Russia planned to mine the dam and transformers, forcing Ukrainian civilians out of Kherson and flooding the territory to stop a Ukrainian counteroffensive. The land south and east of the river is low.
“Russia is preparing for a man-made disaster,” Podolya said.
What the pro-Moscow authorities say: Vladimir Leontiev, the head of Russia’s designated Nova Kakhovka administrative district, told Russian state media TASS that it makes no sense for Russia to destroy the plant’s dam.
“What is the use of destroying Russia now? Even from a formal point of view, this is nonsense. This is complete nonsense,” said Leontiev.
“First of all, it is necessary to think about who benefits: it is only beneficial for Ukraine to destroy the dam, the hydroelectric plant, disrupt logistics, sow fear and terror, stop the possibility of water supply. North Crimea channel to the territory of Crimea,” he said according to TASS.