Russian forces have targeted the hometown of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, striking a strategically important roadblock in a bid to slow Ukraine’s response in the south of the country.
A barrage of missiles hit the dam at the Kryvyi Rih industrial zone on Wednesday evening, sending a surge of water into the Inhulets River that raised the level by one to two meters, according to local authorities.
A second attack on the city was reported on Thursday, with no immediate information on damage or casualties. The river level began to drop after repair work continued overnight, authorities said.
“All the occupiers can do is create panic, create an emergency, try to deprive people of light, heating, water and food,” Zelenskyy said, commenting on the situation in the city after the attack. “Can this break us? No way. Will they face a just answer and retribution? Definitely yes.”
According to local authorities, residents of more than 100 private homes were evacuated due to high water levels.
Around midnight, Oleksandr Vilkul, the governor of Kryvyi Rih, called the attack “another terrorist act”. According to him, the dam was hit by eight cruise missiles, an attack that “would take away part of our city”.
The strike on the dam in Zelenskyy’s hometown, which had a pre-war population of about 650,000 people, was an attempt by Russia to destroy Ukrainian army crossings on the Inhulets River. Ukrainian forces used the crossings for their counter-offensive against Russian units on the left bank of the river, occupied in the first weeks after the start of the invasion.
Kyiv launched its counter-offensive 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 broadcast Wednesday night, said Russia attacked the dam, “expecting a wave to pass along Inhulets and take our pontoons, our waypoints, which our troops use. ”
At the start of the war, the Ukrainian army blew up a dam on the Irpin River on the outskirts of Kyiv to prevent Russian troops from advancing towards the capital. Following the explosion, much of the area was flooded, including residential houses. According to local residents, homes remained flooded until at least early June.
Later in March, after their failed attempt to surround and seize Kyiv, Russian troops withdrew from the capital and northern Ukraine.
Kyiv’s current counteroffensive in southern Ukraine has unfolded alongside surprise military gains in the northeast, where Ukrainian troops have been able to liberate almost the entire Kharkiv region over the past week. In apparent revenge, Russia hit local power infrastructure with massive missile strikes.