Flooded homes in Kryvyi Rih after Russian missile strikes on a nearby damn on Sept. 14, 2022. Photo via Euromaidan Press/Twitter.
KYIV, Ukraine — A barrage of eight Russian cruise missiles struck a hydroelectric facility along the Inhulets River in southern Ukraine on Wednesday, Sept. 14, triggering a flood that spurred officials to order a partial evacuation of Kryvyi Rih, a city of about 700,000 and the hometown of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Three more Russian missiles hit facilities in Kryvyi Rih on Thursday, adding to the tally of recent Russian strikes nationwide against civilian infrastructure targets. Many Ukrainian officials and defense experts say these latest Russian strikes are retribution for ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensives, which have inflicted major defeats on Russian ground forces in recent weeks.
In a Wednesday night address, Zelenskyy called Russia a “terrorist state” comprising “weaklings who fight civilians,” and “scoundrels who, having escaped from the battlefield, are trying to do harm from somewhere far away."
Russian missiles targeted power plants near the cities of Kharkiv and Kremenchuk on Sunday, causing blackouts in several regions of Ukraine. Residents in the city of Horishni Plavni, along the eastern bank of the Dnipro River south of Kremenchuk, reported intermittent power outages Sunday.
In one week, Ukraine’s steamrolling counteroffensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region has liberated nearly 400 settlements and reversed months of Russian territorial gains. Russian resistance has largely dissolved near Kharkiv, resulting in a wholesale rout as Ukrainian forces have retaken hundreds of square miles of territory.
Underscoring Ukraine's battlefield momentum, on Wednesday, Zelenskyy visited the recently liberated city of Izyum in the Kharkiv region.
Videos posted to Twitter and other social media on Wednesday showed water overflowing the banks of the Inhulets River. Local officials ordered evacuations in some low-lying areas of Kryvyi Rih. Area media reported that the river's water level rose more than 6 feet above normal, leaving about 5,000 people without tap water and damaging more than 100 homes. Oleksandr Vilkul, the head of the Kryvyi Rih military administration, reported Thursday that emergency repair work on the damaged hydroelectric facility, as well as other measures, had reduced the flooding.
"Russian missile strike on Kryvyi Rih hydraulic structures is a war crime and an act of terror,” Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, tweeted late Wednesday, adding: “Beaten by Ukrainian army on the battlefield, Russian cowards are now at war with our critical infrastructure and civilians. Russia is a terrorist state and must be recognized as such.”
To support its southern counteroffensive in the direction of Kherson, the Ukrainian military has erected pontoon bridges across the Inhulets River, downstream of Kryvyi Rih. Some Ukrainian officials and defense experts say Russia’s missile strikes on Wednesday may have intended to damage those ad hoc crossings and interfere with the Ukrainian military’s southward advance.
"The Kryvyi Rih dam missile strike was an attempt to stop the Ukrainian offensive in Kherson by flooding Inhulets river and destroying Ukrainian pontoons,” Ukrainian presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovych said during a livestream interview Wednesday, according to the website, wartranslated.com.
“Accompanying victims do not matter, they will kill 100 children if they need to do the task,” Arestovych said.
With Russian forces suffering multiple battlefield defeats, commentators on Russian TV programs have called for retaliatory attacks against Ukrainian civilian infrastructure.
“This is a new reality, which is why we should be acting quickly, harshly and uncompromisingly. First of all, we need to scale up our strikes against critical infrastructure in such a way that one region after the next, one district after another, Ukraine is plunged into darkness,” Russian military expert Igor Korotchenko said Wednesday on the state TV show, 60 Minutes, according to The Daily Beast.
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Zelenskyy said on his Telegram channel the weapon was produced by Ukraine’s Ministry of Strategic Industries but gave no other details.