Experts doubt explosion: Report: Criminal negligence led to dam collapse


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Experts doubt explosion
Report: Criminal negligence led to dam failure

After the rupture of the Kachowka dam, experts around the world are brooding over the possible reasons for the catastrophe. Contrary to initial assumptions, investigators from an independent organization came to the conclusion that the Russians were responsible for gross negligence rather than an attack.

According to a report by an independent investigative organization, it was not an explosion but “criminal negligence on the part of the Russian armed forces” that led to the destruction of the dam. The “Conflict Intelligence Team” (CIT), an independent investigative organization from Russia, came to this assessment after comparing several satellite images from autumn 2022. The organization uses publicly available sources to investigate incidents related to Russian military operations.

According to their assessment, the documented explosions near the hydroelectric power plants were not caused by shelling, but by mines placed by Russia, which were only swept away by the current after the dam burst. “We know from the past that the Russians mined the dam. They basically let us know that,” military expert Markus Reisner told NDR. In the night from Monday to Tuesday itself, when the dam broke, there were no explosions.

Satellite images from Maxar, Sentinel and Planet show that an explosion in November 2022 caused damage to the lock gates as Russian forces retreated, but the structure was not damaged. However, the gantry cranes used to open the gates had not moved since November, satellite images show, the authors write. In all subsequent photos, the cranes stayed in the same places until June 5, suggesting that “since November 15, the Russian armed forces have not regulated the water level in the reservoir in any way.”

Maxar satellite image of the dam from November 11, 2022, shortly after the Russian blasting of the roadway.

(Foto: Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies.)

Accumulation of damage led to dam failure

This caused the record low water level in February and then the record water level at the end of May. On the stretch of road above the open gates, minor damage can be seen on May 28, probably resulting from last year’s shelling by Ukraine’s armed forces. The picture from June 2 then shows that the section of road above the open gates has collapsed. The damage caused by this had expanded by June 4th, and on June 5th the collapsed section of road could be seen in even more detail.

All of this leads to the conclusion that the damage to the dam has increased over a long period of time and was not caused by an explosion in one day, the authors conclude. As a result of the accumulation of these damages, “the dam collapsed during the night of June 5-6,” it said. “First the water broke through the dam in the area of ​​the open gates, and then part of the turbine hall collapsed under the pressure of the water flow.”

In addition to satellite images, there is other data that supports this theory. The graph of the water level in the Kakhovka reservoir, prepared on the basis of satellite data, shows that in the autumn of 2022 the water level fluctuations will increase. At the beginning of the year, the level fell sharply to an unusually low level and then rose just as sharply to a record high in June 2023. The reason was also the heavy rainfall in the week before.

Experts see an attack from the outside as unlikely

Other experts also assume it was an accident rather than a planned demolition. According to a report in the New York Times, an explosion inside the dam was “most likely” responsible for its rupture. The newspaper quotes several experts. A structural problem or an attack from outside are possible in principle, but unlikely, it says.

An explosion in a closed space inside the dam would cause the most damage – significantly greater than, for example, an attack from the outside. Nonetheless, the experts warn that hundreds of kilograms of explosives were needed to trigger such a catastrophe. A single rocket from the outside is unlikely to be the cause. Even a direct hit could not have destroyed the dam.

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