Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said 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 address, Zelensky said after failing to use energy resources as a weapon against Europe, “The current Russian leadership has ordered to turn the energy system itself into a battlefield. The consequences of this are very dangerous, again for all of us in Europe.”
“Strikes by Russian cruise missiles and Iranian attack drones have destroyed more than a third of our energy infrastructure,” he said. “Unfortunately, because of this, we are no longer able to export electricity to help them maintain stability.”
Days of devastating Russian attacks on energy infrastructure have caused the nation to lose at least 40% of its power generation capacity. Ukrainian officials warned earlier this week that emergency and scheduled blackouts would follow.
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 with electricity and heat in Ukraine as possible this fall and winter and driving as many Ukrainians as possible to leave for their countries.”
Mined critical prey: Zelensky also claimed that Russia was creating ground for a large-scale catastrophe in southern Ukraine, with Russian forces mining a critical dam on the Dnipro River in the southern Kherson region, as well as the adjacent hydroelectric plant.
“We have information that Russian terrorists have mined the dam and units of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant,” Zelensky told the Council of Europe during a video address.
“The dam of this hydroelectric plant contains about 18 million cubic meters of water.
“If Russian terrorists blow up this dam, more than 80 settlements, including Kherson, will be in the flash flood zone. Hundreds of thousands of people may suffer. The water supply to a large part of southern Ukraine could be destroyed. This Russian terrorist attack could leave the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant without water for cooling: the water for ZNPP is taken from the Kakhovka reservoir. “
CNN has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry for a response to the allegations.
The dam and hydroelectric plant have been working at greatly reduced capacity since the area was captured by Russian forces in March. Ukrainian forces are about 40 kilometers (more than 24 miles) north of the dam. In the last four months, they have launched several attacks on the bridge that is part of the dam to prevent its use by the Russian army.
Separately, Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, said on Twitter on Thursday that Russia planned to mine the dam and transformers, forcing the deportation of Ukrainian civilians from Kherson and flooding the territory to stop the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the region. The land to the south and east of the river is low.
“Russia is preparing a man-made catastrophe,” Podolyak said.
What pro-Moscow officials say: The Russian-appointed head of the Nova Kakhovka administrative district, Vladimir Leontiev, told Russian state media TASS that there is no point in Russia destroying the power plant’s dam.
“What’s the point of Russia destroying it now? Even from a formal point of view, this is nonsense. This is absolute nonsense,” Leontiev said.
“First of all, you need to think about who benefits: it is only beneficial for Ukraine to destroy the dam, hydroelectric power plant, disrupt logistics, sow fear and panic, stop the possibility of supplying water through the Crimean Canal of the North to the territory of Crimea,” he said, according to TASS.