Defense League commander: Kakhovka blast a 'foolish diversion'

Defense League commander Brig. Gen. Riho Ühtegi.
Defense League commander Brig. Gen. Riho Ühtegi. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Tuesday's deliberate breach of a major dam on the Dnipro River in Ukraine was a foolish act on the part of occupying Russian troops, commander of the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit) Brig.Gen. Riho Ühtegi says.

Actions of this nature are usually used as a last resort, he added (essentially a scorched earth policy – even as that might sound counter-intuitive given the amount of water involved-ed.).

Speaking to ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Tuesday, Brig. Gen. Ühtegi said the explosion, which ruptured the Nova Kakhovka dam and led to flood damage whose true extent is yet to be known, "has also been something of a stupid diversion, as it wouldn't have been expedient for Ukraine to attack in this region anyway," referring to the planned counter-offensive by Ukrainian forces and the likelihood that the explosion which caused the flood was an effort to forestall that attack.

"Flooding like this, where dams are detonated, are usually used as a last resort in defensive activities, to create an ecological situation where it is not possible for an opponent to move forward for days, weeks, sometimes months," he went on.

It might also have been an effort to retain occupied Crimea, he added.

While prior to the February 2022 invasion, occupied Crimea had been experiencing water shortages since Ukrainian authorities cut the supply to the peninsula, this was no longer the case even after Tuesday's incident, Ühtegi went on.

"It has been reported that there will be sufficient water in Crimean reservoirs for a long time to come, which means that there will be no direct shortage of water there. Plus Russia will certainly try to keep Crimea for as long as possible," he said.

The act was in any case one of desperation, which lacked rationale and is in effect a war crime, albeit one in keeping with the Russian M.O. in the war to date, the Defense League commander added.

The U.S. media reports that Russia was behind the Kakhovka dam explosion, citing U.S. intelligence sources.

In any event, the action was not a complete surprise to Ukraine by any extent; their authorities had repeatedly said that Russian troops had mined the dam with explosives.

It also means that no fighting is likely there any time soon, as any Russian troops who were in the area in significant numbers are likely to have been pulled out in any case, Ühtegi added.

Since Crimea will nonetheless experience water supply problems as a result of the disruption, and the bulk of the world's resentment over the incident will be towards Russia, the plan such as it was backfired, he continued.

EDF Combat Engineer Battalion chief: Flooding did inundate some Russian military lines

Also appearing on AK in a separate segment was Lt. Col. Priit Heinloo, commander of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Combat Engineer Battalion, who said that the demolition of the Kakhovka dam was done incompetently, since some of the Russian-built defense lines are now completely submerged.
"First and foremost, this is a war crime. Even if there are military advantages, it is a prohibited activity," Heinloo told AK.

Heinloo said, in reference to the military repercussions, that since Ukrainians will not be able to cross the river in the near future, Russian forces will likely be able to move their soldiers from this front to other locations, where they are more urgently needed.

Lt. Col. Priit Heinloo Source: ERR

"However, it was executed in an unskilled or uncoordinated manner; thus, some of their defensive positions have been flooded," Heinloo went on.

Mati Raidma, a crisis expert, told AK what happened on Tuesday in fact was one of the largest and most complex disasters of recent times.

"It involves a wide geographical area and hundreds of thousands of people. Flooding will undoubtedly cause an ecological catastrophe. Significant pollution will be released resulting in a severe drinking water shortage, because all water is polluted and there is no electricity," Raidma said.

Early Tuesday morning, the Kakhovka reservoir dam on the Dnipro River exploded, causing a significant flood along the Dnipro's banks. Ukraine attributes the attack to Russia, while the reverse has also been the case.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa, Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov, Merili Nael

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera'

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