Great thread on the developing counteroffensive heading in the Mariupol direction:
As everything, consider the info speculative and unconfirmed until we received official word or geolocated video.
Russians are so bad at propaganda.
He says in the video that all is fine, “people are calm moving on the streets, I just drove on the streets” of Nova Kakhovka, and does it all Baghdad Bob-style, with clear evidence to the contrary behind him.
It’s the worst whodunit ever, with people feigning ignorance as to who was responsible for the Kakhovka Dam disaster that has flooded much of Kherson oblast, destroyed thousands of homes, and killed who knows how many people, including desperate residents standing on the roofs of their flooded homes on the Russian-occupied side of the Dnipro, calling friends and family and saying their last goodbyes.
No one expects the Russians to give a damn enough to try and rescue them.
Yet the destruction of the dam, while somewhat advantageous to Russia in the short term, also creates the conditions for Russia’s eventual defeat.
Here are the whodunit scenarios:
Russia blows up the Dam on purpose
It’s quite the coincidence that the dam would break the exact same day Ukraine launched its counteroffensive, huh? Militarily, there was a very outside chance that Ukraine could launch an attack across the Dnipro. Not would launch, but could launch. And given Russia’s thinned-out defenses across a thousands-kilometer-long front, widening that river would essentially eliminate the potential threat, securing Russia’s western flank at Melitopol.
Russia’s incompetence causes the dam to break
The Kakhovka reservoir was at extremely high levels before the collapse.
Satellite images didn’t just show water overlapping the dam’s walls, but actual damage that predated the collapse .
Responsible managers would have cracked open the gates to release water, and thus relieve pressure on the dam itself. We know Russia knew how to do this, because you can see in the chart above: They dropped reservoir levels to dangerous lows in February in order to fill Crimea’s network of reservoirs. In the process, that endangered the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, as it needs the water to cool its spent fuel rods.
Ukraine blows the dam up on purpose
Yeah, this is not a scenario, as there is almost zero benefit to Ukraine. Sure, some Russian defenses on the left bank of the Dnipro were washed out, but … so what? Ukraine wasn’t going to be hitting those defenses anyway. And the economic and ecological costs are beyond severe.
So which scenario is it? Pretty much everyone assumes Russia did it. Russian warbloggers on Telegram were celebrating the destruction. Russian propagandists were smirking about it on TV.
The big question is: Did Russia do it on purpose? I don’t believe they did. There is one major reason why: Crimea is now in trouble.
Prior to the war (the original start date, 2014), the North Crimean Canal provided 85% of Crimea’s water. After Russia’s invasion of the peninsula, Ukraine dammed the canal, forcing Russia to truck water in over the Kerch bridge, attempt expensive desalination, and unsuccessfully try to drill for groundwater. Russia even sued Ukraine at the European Court of Human Rights, where the effort went nowhere (there wasn’t any international conflict since the vast majority of countries still recognized Crimea as Ukraine).
During the early days of the February 2022 invasion, Russia prioritized restoring that water supply. Doing so is among Russia’s very short list of successes.
The problem is, the North Crimean Canal uses gravity to move the water from the canal’s mouth at Tavriisk to Dzhankoi around 200 kilometers away, where pumps there help keep things moving.
The need for gravity means that the canal’s water intake isn’t being pumped from the bottom of the reservoir, but skimmed off the top. The disappearance of the Kakhovka reservoir is the end of the canal.
Russian state media agency TASS reported on a local government and its “What me, worry?” statement.
There is no threat of the North Crimean Canal which delivers water to Crimea from the Kherson Region draining after the collapse of the dam at the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant (HPP), the local municipal administration [of Genichesk] said on its Telegram channel on Tuesday.
"There is no threat of the North Crimean Canal losing water (Crimea residents got worried)," its statement said, adding that the flooded residential areas have no power or water while local residents left on their own. It is specified that water will recede in a couple of days.
This isn’t exactly wrong. The canal traditionally worked seasonally, with water flowing from March to December. This allowed all of Crimea’s reservoirs to fill, with the canal itself holding extra water. Given that everything was topped off in February, Crimea is certainly okay for the time being.
Yet the Kremlin knows the deal. “A gaping hole punched in Ukraine's Nova Kakhovka dam that unleashed a wall of floodwater means that the canal which has traditionally met most of Crimea's water needs is receiving drastically less water, the Kremlin warned on Tuesday,” reported Reuters. The Russian government noted that the peninsula’s reservoirs were at 80%, plus the water in the canal itself added considerable supply, limiting the short-term pain. But that water won’t last forever.
And therein lies Russia’s existential problem. Check out this scenario:
North Crimean Canal out of commission: check.
Ukraine cuts Russia’s land bridge from mainland Russia to Crimea: In progress.
Ukraine destroys the Kerch bridge: On the to-do list.
By the end of the year, Ukraine could very well have the Crimean peninsula completely isolated. Check out the map:
If Mariupol is liberated, Ukraine would have complete fire control over Russian shipping in the Azov Sea, shutting down the key Russian logistical hub at Rostov-on-Don, Russia’s 15th largest port in its vast country. Remember those Harpoon anti-ship missiles Ukraine got early in the war in order to thwart an amphibious landing on Odesa? Those would suddenly come in handy once again.
Russia has three other ports further south on the Black Sea which could presumably supply Crimea, but they would need to unload at Sevastopol, putting them in range of Ukrainian F-16s and F-18s (likely coming from Australia) with Harpoon and other anti-ship missiles prowling the skies just off their coast. And those anti-ship drones Ukraine has been launching at Russian warships would feast on defenseless civilian cargo ships.
The cost to supply Crimea with the most basic of basics—water and food—would prove prohibitively high, nevermind any other necessary supplies. And if Russia can’t provide, their hold on the peninsula comes to an end and they likely have to sue for peace.
Quite simply, Ukraine may not even need to invade Crimea to liberate it. It could pull another Kherson, making it logistically impossible for Russia to hold.
Given all that, does anyone really think Russia blew the dam on purpose? We know they are f’n stupid, but they can’t possibly be that stupid, can they?
Today, Ukraine claimed the following Russian losses:
37 (!) artillery pieces
Those are insanely high numbers, and support the growing consensus that yup, the counteroffensive is on the way. Ukraine is being appropriately tight-lipped, but American administration officials are already expressing delight at Ukrainian advances. “Administration officials were encouraged by better-than-expected progress Monday, as Ukrainian units pushed through heavily mined areas to advance between five and 10 kilometers in some areas of the long front,” wrote David Ignatius in The Washington Post. “That raised hopes that Ukrainian forces can keep thrusting toward Mariupol, Melitopol and other Russian-held places along the coast — severing the land bridge.”
Five to 10 kilometers in a couple of days is stunning progress against Russian defenses, particularly since we haven’t yet seen the emergence of Ukrainian’s new “storm brigades” kitted out with Western gear. If (and I stress, if) Ukraine is notching these kinds of gains from their probing attacks, then Russia is in even more trouble than expected.
Strelkov is war criminal Igor Girkin’s war alias. If he’s right that Ukraine is advancing on Optyne, well then, holy shit.
Opytne and neighboring Vodyane are Russian-occupied suburbs of the regional capital city of Donetsk, just south of Avdiivka, which has been under siege by Russia since 2014. The invaders made a big show of pushing hard on Avdiivka when it launched its winter offensive, but somehow its Ukrainian defenders held fast. It’s certainly one of the under-told stories of this war.
I’ve written about Donetsk being an attractive counteroffensive direction, and breaking defensive lines to the city’s west could certainly be part of any such effort. Girking specifically mentions Opytne, so why am I also pointing to Vodyane? Ukraine’s July 7 morning update lists it as a location of Russian shelling. And Russia generally doesn’t shell itself.
This is beautiful:
The French take our country’s sacrifice for their liberation seriously.
This is one kilometer away from the nearest overflowing river:
I can’t vouch for this account, and I didn’t see it reported elsewhere. (Could’ve been discussed in Ukrainian-language Telegram.) Regardless, it’s getting a great deal of attention.
Some accounts argue Russia callously threw these lives away because tipping them off would’ve tipped off Ukraine. But that doesn’t make sense. What could Ukraine have done with advance notice? Absolutely nothing.
To me, this supports the theory that the dam broke due to Russian incompetence, rather than intentional malice.