Kyiv’s main intelligence agency on Friday published an intercepted phone call which allegedly proves that a Russian “sabotage group” was responsible for the destruction of a dam in southern Ukraine and the ensuing catastrophe.
The disastrous collapse of the Kakhovka hydroelectric station and dam on Tuesday created a humanitarian and environmental disaster as biblical flooding drowned residential areas under floodwater. Moscow blamed the facility’s destruction—which coincided with the launch of Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive—on Ukrainian shelling, but Kyiv unequivocally blamed Russia for the crisis, and now claims to have the receipts.
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) posted an audio clip on its Telegram channel Friday of the purportedly incriminating phone call. The agency said one of the two men heard in the one-and-a-half minutes of audio is a Russian soldier describing who was responsible for the dam’s failure.
“They (the Ukrainian military) didn’t strike it. That was our sabotage group,” the alleged Russian solider says, according to a Kyiv Independent translation of the conversation. “They wanted to scare people with this dam... It didn’t go according to plan, and (they did) more than they planned for.”
He then goes on to tell his interlocutor about how the ensuing floods killed “thousands” of animals at a “safari park” downstream from the dam. The other man on the call expresses his surprise that Russia was responsible for the destruction of the site, which has been occupied by Moscow’s forces after the invasion of Ukraine began in February last year.
Ukrainian intelligence had earlier claimed that Russia had planted explosives at the dam in April 2022, with President Volodymyr Zelensky accusing Moscow of planning to create “a historical disaster.”
“The invaders wanted to blackmail Ukraine by blowing up the dam and staged a man-made disaster in the south of our country,” the SBU said in its Telegram post. It added that the agency had opened criminal proceedings “on the fact of a war crime committed by the Russian Federation.”
“By blowing up the Kakhovskaya HPP dam, the Russian Federation finally proved that it is a threat to the entire civilized world,” Vasyl Malyuk, the head of the SBU, said in a statement. “After all, only a real terrorist state can arrange a man-made and ecological catastrophe of this level.”
Officials on both sides of the conflict have already reported that at least 14 people have died in the flooding, according to the Associated Press, with thousands more left homeless and hundreds of thousands of others without access to drinking water. Ukraine’s prosecutor general said that some rescue operations in Kherson—the largest municipality affected by flooding—were disrupted on Thursday by Russian shelling, which killed one civilian and injured two others even while evacuations were ongoing.
On Friday, Zelensky said evacuations were still underway. “We are establishing more details about the damage Russia has caused by this disaster,” he wrote on Twitter. “In more than 40 settlements, life is broken.” He added: “Russia must be held accountable for this deliberate crime against people, nature and life itself.”