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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Putin's Hidden Message In Dam Explosion: If Cornered, I Will Stop At Nothing

The Nova Kakhovka dam explosion was undoubtedly carried out by Putin, putting both Ukrainian and Russian lives at risk. The explosion makes clear that there are no limits to how far Putin will go. That has been his message since Day One of the war.

Residents of occupied Ukrainian towns flee flooding from the Nova Kakhova Dam explosion

The Kherson region, where Ukraine retook several key towns and cities last November, is flooding as water levels on both banks of the river rose by 10 meters.

Twitter via Volodymyr Zelensky
Anna Akage


Southern Ukraine is still reeling from the explosion at the Nova Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro River. The surrounding Kherson region, where Ukraine retook several key towns and cities last November, is flooding as water levels on both banks of the river rose by 10 meters, forcing thousands of Ukrainians to evacuate.

The catastrophe may lead to the shutting down of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the nuclear reactors of which are cooled by water from the Dnipro.

With enormous consequences on a human, environmental and strategic levels, Kyiv and Moscow are blaming each other for the explosion. But it is simply unfathomable that Ukraine could be responsible for the attack — both, because it wouldn't make sense for Ukraine to attack its own people — and because the disaster is a major impediment from Kyiv's much-anticipated military counteroffensive.

Yes, the bombing of the dam was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin to try to slow down his coming military losses. But there is another, deeper explanation for this attack at this moment in time: it's a clear message to the world that there are no limits to Putin’s aggression. Especially when his back is against the wall.

In the early weeks of the war, the world was faced with the fear that Russia could use nuclear weapons. And in response to Ukraine's successful military operations, Putin has increasingly used unconventional war methods.

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

Brutality rising

Undoubtedly, blowing up the dam was a poorly thought-out response to an offensive by Ukrainian troops. The panicked reaction is dangerous and foolish: by blowing up the dam, Russia put its troops and the fortifications they had built on the left bank of the river at risk, and have endangered the water supply to Russian-occupied Crimea and the supply of electricity to other Ukrainian territories they occupy.

"Now no one will have you!"

When the Kremlin talks about a possible nuclear strike on Ukraine, experts reassure us that such a move would hurt Russia as much as Ukraine. But isn't that exactly what happened at the Kakhovska hydroelectric plant?

It brings to mind a line by the 19th-century Russian playwright Alexander Ostrovsky: as the protagonist shoots his former bride, he says, "Well, now no one will have you!"

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting with Rostelecom President Mikhail Oseyevsky at the Moscow Kremlin

In the early weeks of the war, the world was faced with the fear that Putin could use nuclear weapons. That fear has never gone away.

© Russian Look via ZUMA Press Wire

Predictions are impossible

Putin’s chances of victory are slim, given the many missteps Russia has taken throughout the war.

Every day, the Russian army proves its fundamental inefficiency, as its commanders make mistake after mistake. Who is there to stop the dictator's hand from pressing the red button, his last and only opportunity for revenge?

There is no guarantee that the Kremlin will stop a nuclear escalation, whether with a ballistic missile strike or by triggering a nuclear accident at the Zaporizhzhia plant. Just last week, Putin and his lieutenants were again making allusions to so-called "dirty bombs."

Nothing in this war is impossible. Whatever happens in Ukraine — bad or good — will not be a local event, but will change the world.

The risks of further Russian escalations must be calculated by decision makers in Brussels, Washington and Beijing. This incident shows with dramatic images how real they are. No one, not even the highest-ranking U.S. military official, knows how the war will develop.

Perhaps we can only say with certainty that the Ukrainian military will continue to fight. They have no other choice.

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Forced Labor, Forced Exile: The Cuban Professionals Sent Abroad To Work, Never To Return

Noel, a Cuban engineer who had to emigrate to the faraway island of Saint Lucia, tells about the Cuban government's systematic intimidation techniques and coercion of its professionals abroad. He now knows he can never go back to his native island — lest he should never be allowed to leave Cuba again.

Forced Labor, Forced Exile: The Cuban Professionals Sent Abroad To Work, Never To Return

Next stop, Saint Lucia

Laura Rique Valero

Daniela* was just one year old when she last played with her father. In a video her mother recorded, the two can be seen lying on the floor, making each other laugh.

Three years have passed since then. Daniela's sister, Dunia*, was born — but she has never met her father in person, only connecting through video calls. Indeed, between 2019 and 2023, the family changed more than the two little girls could understand.

"Dad, are you here yet? I'm crazy excited to talk to you."

"Dad, I want you to call today and I'm going to send you a kiss."

"Dad, I want you to come for a long time. I want you to call me; call me, dad."

Three voice messages which Daniela has left her father, one after the other, on WhatsApp this Saturday. His image appears on the phone screen, and the two both light up.

The girls can’t explain what their father looks like in real life: how tall or short or thin he is, how he smells or how his voice sounds — the real one, not what comes out of the speaker. Their version of their dad is limited to a rectangular, digital image. There is nothing else, only distance, and problems that their mother may never share with them.

In 2020, Noel*, the girls' father, was offered a two-to-three-year employment contract on a volcanic island in the Caribbean, some 2,000 kilometers from Cuba. The family needed the money. What came next was never in the plans.

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