Russian forces targeted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s home town, striking a strategically important dam in an attempt to slow Ukraine’s fightback in the southern part of the country.
A barrage of missiles hit the dam in the industrial area of Kryvyi Rih on Wednesday night, sending a surge of water into the Inhulets river that raised the level from one to two meters, according to local authorities.
A second attack on the city was reported on Thursday, with no immediate information about damage or casualties. The river level began to decline after repair work went on through the night, authorities said.
“All the occupiers can do is to sow panic, create an emergency situation, try to leave people without light, heat, water and food,” Zelenskyy said, commenting on the situation in the city after the attack. “Can it break us? Not at all. Will they face a fair response and retribution? Definitely yes.”
According to the local authorities, residents of more than 100 private homes were evacuated due to the elevated water level.
Around midnight, Oleksandr Vilkul, the Kryvyi Rih governor, branded the attack as “another terrorist act.” According to him, the dam was hit by eight cruise missiles, an attack that would “wash away a part of our city.”
The strike on the dam in Zelenskyy’s home town, which had a pre-war population of about 650,000 people, was an attempt by Russia to destroy the Ukrainian army’s crossing points on the Inhulets river. The Ukrainian forces used the crossings for their counteroffensive against Russian units on the river’s left bank, occupied in the first weeks after the invasion began.
Kyiv launched its counteroffensive in southern Ukraine several weeks ago in an attempt to turn the tide of the war, with the successful deployment of modern weapons supplied by Western nations in recent weeks.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Zelenskyy’s office, in an online talk show aired on Wednesday night, said that Russia had attacked the dam, “expecting that a wave will go along Inhulets and wash away our pontoons, our crossings, which our troops use.”
At the start of the war, the Ukrainian military blew up a dam on the Irpin river on the outskirts of Kyiv to stop Russian troops from advancing toward the capital. As a result of the explosion, much of the area was flooded, including residential houses. According to local residents, houses remained flooded until at least early June.
Later in March, after their failed attempt to encircle and seize Kyiv, Russian troops withdrew from around the capital and northern Ukraine.
Kyiv’s current counteroffensive in southern Ukraine has been unfolding alongside surprise military gains in the northeast, where Ukrainian troops were able to liberate almost the whole Kharkiv region over the past week. In apparent revenge, Russia has hit local power infrastructure with massive missile strikes.