Major dam attack in southern Ukraine maybe ‘another Nord Stream sabotage’ with culprit unknown, signals crisis may get out of control: observers

Xu Keyue, Global Times, June 7, 2023 —

While the Nord Stream sabotage is still waiting for comprehensive and objective international investigations, a major dam in the Russian-controlled part of southern Ukraine was breached on Tuesday, which may become “another Rashomon incident” as both Ukraine and Russia said this was an intentional attack by the other’s forces.

Some Chinese observers warned that such serious attacks, no matter which side did it, signal another escalation of the Ukraine crisis and that the Russia-Ukraine conflict is spiraling out of control.

China on Tuesday and Wednesday voiced its grave concerns over the destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam, and urged all parties to stay committed to a political settlement of the crisis and work together to alleviate the situation.

The major dam and hydroelectric power plant collapsed early Tuesday, prompting mass evacuations and fears over large-scale environmental devastation. The area is flooded as a result of the rise in the water level due to the destruction of the dam and about 600 houses were flooded, TASS reported on Tuesday.

Residents downstream from the Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro River in Kherson were told to “do everything you can to save your life,” CNN reported on Tuesday as video footages showed a deluge of water gushing from a huge breach in the dam.

The critical Kakhovka dam is the largest reservoir in Ukraine in terms of volume. The damage is also affecting the area north of the reservoir, where water levels are falling.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is under Russian control, lies upstream from the destroyed dam. The reservoir supplies cooling water to the plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power station, and is crucial for its safety, according to the CNN report.

Zhang Jun, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations (UN), on Tuesday said at the UN Security Council Emergency Meeting on Ukraine that China is gravely concerned over the destruction at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam and urged all parties to the conflict to abide by international humanitarian law and do their utmost to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, also expressed similar views over the incident at a press conference on Wednesday.

Wang said that China’s position on the Ukraine crisis is consistent and clear. Under the current circumstances, it is hoped that all parties are committed to a political settlement of the crisis and work together to alleviate the situation.

Some Chinese observers believe the attack could become another “Nord Stream sabotage” with the culprit unknown.

Moscow accused Kiev of being the attacker. Ukraine’s sabotage act on the dam at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant could be aimed against the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya told the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Tass reported.

However, media outlet Kyiv Independent on Wednesday cited Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command as saying that the dam was destroyed by Russian forces.

CNN said the US and the Western intelligence community are still examining who is responsible for the dam’s destruction.

Yang Jin, an associate research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the two sides are uttering different words and blaming each other as the responsibility of blowing up a power plant dam is enormous considering it involves humanitarian, economic, and ecological consequences.

While finding out who should bear the responsibility for the serious attack awaits a comprehensive and objective investigation, the priority should be supporting Russia and Ukraine in resuming direct dialogue as quickly as possible to gradually de-escalate the situation and ultimately reach a comprehensive cease-fire, Yang urged.

The incident marked a further escalation of the Ukraine crisis and signaled that the conflicts are heading toward the situation of “loss of control,” said Yang. Under such circumstances, China has always been engaged in promoting peace talks, which is of more significance, he stressed.

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