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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

How The Dam Destruction Will Impact Ukraine's Counteroffensive — And What That Tells Us

When both sides of a conflict blame each other for something as important as the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam, there's only one way to understand what's going on: find out who benefits from the crime.

Three Ukrainian Servicemen aim their rifles towards the camera during training

Servicemen during a training session of the Offensive Guard of the National Guard, Kharkiv Region, Ukraine.

Pierre Haski


PARIS — Moscow and Kyiv continue to blame each other for blowing up the Nova Kakhovka dam in Russian-controlled Ukrainian territory. The dam's destruction is flooding the region around Kherson, the main town retaken by the Ukrainians last November.

It's a humanitarian and ecological disaster, and a major offense. It's worth pointing out that the Geneva Conventions formally prohibit attacks on dams, dikes or nuclear power plants, so this may constitute a war crime.

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The immediate consequence of this sabotage is that it could hamper a possible Ukrainian counteroffensive in this strategic region. If the Ukrainians had considered launching their long-awaited and much-trumpeted assault in the Kherson region, this is now doubtful.

The flooding and state of the soil over the next few weeks makes the passage of armored vehicles and troops no longer possible.

This could force Ukrainian forces to divert some of their resources to deal with the humanitarian emergency, and to review their attack plans. From this point of view, it's a setback for Kyiv.

High stakes

If, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vehemently proclaims, it was indeed the Russians who blew up the dam, this is yet another step in the conflict's escalation.

Since the Russian invasion began, we've seen the blackmail of grain exports, a nuclear power plant taken hostage, civilian homes deliberately targeted and the destruction of entire towns. Unable to achieve its initial objectives of conquering power in Kyiv, Moscow is waging a war of unabashed brutality.

Putin cannot give the Ukrainians the slightest chance of success.

But the stakes are obviously high: Vladimir Putin cannot afford to give the announced Ukrainian offensive the slightest chance of success.

Flooding after an attack on the Nova Kakhovka dam

A view of the flooded Dnipro River in Novaya Kakhovka after a dam was breached, June 7, 2023

Alexei Konovalov / ZUMA

New parameters

The Ukrainian army's offensive, which has been rumored in recent days to have already begun, has taken on political as well as military significance. Reinforced by Western weapons and troops recently returned from training in NATO countries, Ukraine has been preparing for weeks.

Ukraine faces a 1,000-kilometer wall of Russian defenses. If Russia succeeds in preventing the Ukrainian army from reclaiming a significant part of the occupied territories, the pressure will be on to transform Ukraine into yet another "frozen conflict." That is what the Chinese emissary to Europe proposed a few days ago: a ceasefire that would freeze the positions of both sides.

This is the only way for Moscow to consolidate its gains, and it is unacceptable to Kyiv as long as there is any hope of reconquering the territory by force. The partial destruction of the dam takes on a particular significance in this context: it changes the parameters of the Ukrainian offensive.

Taking back its territory has become a little more difficult, but Ukraine knows it has no choice.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Black Sea Survivor: Tale Of A Ukrainian Special Agent Thrown Overboard In Enemy Waters

This is a tale of a Ukrainian special forces operator who wound up surviving 14 hours at sea, staying afloat and dodging Russian air and sea patrols.

Black Sea Survivor: Tale Of A Ukrainian Special Agent Thrown Overboard In Enemy Waters

Looking at the Black Sea in Odessa, Ukraine.

Rustem Khalilov and Roksana Kasumova

KYIV — During a covert operation in the Black Sea, a Ukrainian special agent was thrown overboard and spent the next 14 hours alone at sea, surrounded by enemy forces.

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The agent, who uses the call-sign "Conan," agreed to speak to Ukrainska Pravda, to share the details of nearly being lost forever at sea. He also shared some background on how he arrived in the Ukrainian special forces. Having grown up in a village in a rural territory of Ukraine, Conan describes himself as "a simple guy."

He'd worked in law enforcement, personal security and had a job as a fitness trainer when Russia launched its full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022. That's when he signed up with the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Main Directorate of Intelligence "Artan" battalion. It was nearly 18 months into his service, when Conan faced the most harrowing experience of the war. Here's his first-hand account:

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