IISWU expert group
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Dam breach can bring advantages to both sides of the war?!

 The destruction of Kakhovka dam has been already called the worst technological disasters since Chernobyl. It is still hard to evaluate the damage inflicted on the environment, on the communities in the affected areas and on the Ukrainian in general. But unfortunately it is already obvious that there are grounds for such a grim estimation. Lives of tens of thousands of people are endangered, their property is ruined or heavily damaged, their towns and villages are flooded. It is not surprising that neither side wants to take the blame for destroying Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric power plant.

Is should also be considered that the destruction of dams is directly prohibited by the Geneva Convention and therefore can be categorized as a war crime. So those who have blown up the dam will never accept responsibility willingly and keep on declaring that the collapse of the dam was caused by enemy actions.

But I am almost certain that we will get an opportunity to find out which side is responsible for this abhorrent deed. To accomplish this task we have to answer the most important question: cui prodest? The side, that will benefit from the disaster, is most likely the side, responsible for the  disaster.

I am not talking about small advantages, like improving current position on the battlefield. Such  horrible crime could be committed only in hopes of gaining an opportunity to solve a crucial problem. It seems that the disaster can be exploited both by Russian and Ukrainian governments to get important benefits (at least political).

Zelensky’s administration will be able to reject all proposals for peace negotiations under the pretext that it cannot trust the enemy, which is responsible for war-crimes, and has cannot have peace-talks   with those, who instigate the violation of international norms and rules of law. We have to acknowledge that while the hostilities continue on, Zelensky does not have to worry about losing his political domination. He will remain the most influential political actor in Ukraine and control the political process. But after the war is ended, he will face once again political rivalry and competition. The Ukrainian economic situation will be extremely difficult and the public disappointment will be spreading in all the regions.

Last year the tragedy of Bucha gave Zelensky a pretext to terminate the peace-talks. This year when the Ukrainian government is being pressed by several to start negotiations on cease-fire, he might have decided that the similar reason has to be provided.

Besides, the destruction of one of the most important objects of Ukrainian infrastructure allows Zelensky to increase demands for immediate supply of jet fighters, the permission to use western missiles for the attacks on Russian territory and new sanctions not only on Russia but also on the countries that assist Russian entities in avoiding sanctions that have been already imposed.  And there is a high probability that these demands might be fulfilled.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has declared that after the destruction of the dam and hydroelectric power plant the war a received “a new dimension” and  blamed Russia for escalating violence. Poland called for “further severe sanctions”, and Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg accused Russia of the war crime.

But the Kremlin can also try to gain from the disaster what it needs most of all. The opportunity to claim victory. It can be done only if the West complies at least with some of the Russian demands. The Kremlin already tried to scare the European public opinion and it might be doing it gain. In that case the destruction of the dam might have been to demonstrate that main objects of Ukrainian infrastructure, including the Nuclear power plants,can be destroyed in the midst of battle. And this threat can be used to compel the West to make concessions in order to stop the war as soon as possible.

We have to watch, which side will start to  exploit the tragedy in its favour. It will prove that it has been prepared in advance to act this way. And therefore it has most likely deliberately caused the destruction.

Molchanov Kyryl,

director of the International Institute for study of the Consequences of the war in Ukraine